Parashat Lech Lecha – Erev Shabbat 8 November 2019
Week of 3-9 November 2019
Torah Portion: Genesis 12:1-17:27 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Theme: The LORD calls; Abram obeys
Before we look at a specific section of Lech Lecha, I should like to give an overview of the whole parasha as presented in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary. It is divided into five sections as follows: I. The Formation of a Relationship with God (12:1-9); II. Relations within the Group and Outside (12:10-14:24); III. A Deepening Covenant (15:1-21); IV. The Tale of Hagar (16:1-16); V. Covenant and Circumcision (17:1-27).
We now focus on 12:1-9, the first section. It begins: The LORD said to Abram. In the previous chapter we had read a brief history of Abram’s origins: his father was Terah and they originated from Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram married Sarai who turned out to be barren. Terah then wanted to take his family to the land of Canaan but they got as far as Haran and settled there. The LORD had other plans.
Abram listens to what this mysterious voice has to say: had he come across this experience before? We are not told but what we are told is what a radical step he must take and then he is told what will happen if he follows the instructions. This is the first ‘call’ story in the Bible that marks the beginning of the Lord’s relationship with a people chosen and set apart (Ps 33:12). Usually in ‘call’ stories the one who is called offers some or a great deal of resistance. We see this in the call of Moses (Ex 3:3:1-4:17) and another example is the call of Isaiah 6:1-8. But in the call of Abram we read in verse 6: So Abram went forth as the LORD had told him…
The LORD doesn’t seem to give Abram a chance to object as the LORD immediately tells Abram what a life of obedience to the Lord will be like: he will be a great nation with blessings; his name shall be great and a blessing to surrounding nations. Furthermore, the LORD will bless those who bless Abram and curse those who curse him. A crowd of people with all their possessions headed by Abram departed for the land of promise: Canaan. We can only imagine how they were jeered at for their stupidity or how well-meaning friends and family tried to dissuade them. It was almost as if Abram had ‘set his face like flint’ (Isa 50:7b).
In verse 7 it is clearly stated: the LORD now appeared to Abram. This indicates a growth in the relationship – the LORD is not just a voice. The promise this time is that the LORD will give ‘this land’ to the descendants of Abram. We already know that Sarai is barren! Still no objections, instead Abram builds an altar in honor of the LORD and also as a way of marking the land as God’s gift to Abram and his descendants.
And so this chosen crowd moved to Beth El (the House of the LORD). Abram pitched his tent there and built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. (12:8) Abram’s first recorded words are that he called on the ‘Name of the LORD’.For Reflection and Discussion: Abram (Abraham) is our father in faith and trust in the mysterious LORD who called him. When we look at our lives of faith and trust what lessons can we learn from Abram?
Bibliography: Eskenazi, T. C.; Weiss, A.L. (eds.) The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (New York: 2008)