“Go to yourself…. To your inner being…”
Einstein’s famous quote says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
This portion tells the story of Noah, introduced in the previous portion in Bereshit 11:26: “After he had lived seventy years, Terah had his sons Abram, Nahor and Haran.” We also read in Bereshit 11, about Abram’s ancestors, including Noach, Shem and Eber. It also draws a parallel from an idea in the Talmud (in Baba Batra or Genesis Rabbah) that in those days, the world was governed by a powerful man named Nimrod who was a descendant of Cush, son of Ham, and who founded various cities where Ur was located. According to Jewish tradition, Abram’s father, Terah, held a prominent role as a priest of idols and a general in the army of this fearsome Nimrod. Although we don’t have any historical or archaeological evidence to prove the Talmudic stories, the truth is that when Avram (Av means father, ram, exalted) was an adult, according to tradition he was 52 years old, with a wife and material goods, to his credit, decided to leave Ur of the Chaldees accompanied by his father Terah, as we read in Bereshit 11:31.
It is interesting then to see that according to the Torah, the one who decided to leave Ur was Terah (although his purpose or reasons are not stated). It simply describes Terah taking his two sons who were alive: Nahor and Abram; they were already adults, and the text tells us that they arrived at the city of חָרָן (Haran), which was near where Noach had descended from the Ark, both cities being in modern-day Turkey. Haran or Harran, according to some scholars, means dry road or crossroads.
If we combine these stories, it seems that Terah was longing to return to his origins, possibly fleeing the pain of having lost a son, or he wanted to go find his ancestors Shem and Noah in a spiritual search or to find meaning in his life. However, he remained midway between Ur and the land of Canaan. Something that we might overlook is the fact that Abram decided to obey his father, who he sees, in order to honor him, and that somehow this generated a merit that did not go unnoticed by God. Then 25 years passed between Bereshit 11:32 and Bereshit 12:1 when at the age of 75 God told Avram that the city of Haran was only temporary, not the end of the journey that the Eternal had planned for his life. Again, Abram leaves blindly because God tells him: “… and go to the land that I will show you.” (Bereshit 12:1)
Of course, I can imagine the marital problems that this might have generated for Abram. First, he decided to leave with his father to an unknown place at the age of 52, with the pretext “Sarai, my love, we are moving with my family to an unknown place.” Can you see this first problem? So first, Abram, not knowing where his father was going, after spending 25 years in Haran, goes again to his wife and says: “Sarita, my heart, listen, I heard the voice of God who told me: “Get out of here, and go to a new place that I will show you, will you come with me”? And then Sarai responds to him and asks: And where will you take me? Abram replies: “I don’t know, he just told me that he will show me the place on the way ….” Now if I put myself in Abram’s shoes; if it had been my wife who heard this dialogue, she would refuse to take on such an adventure and try to convince me that I am not right in the head. Usually, when we imagine this scenario, we tend to place Abram’s faith on a pedestal, but I think we have to put Sarai’s great faith on that pedestal – to trust her husband and accompany him, to trust that he heard God’s voice and decide to venture into the unknown. I think that if my father decided to leave home at this time in his life and head for an unknown place, I would hardly accompany him. But let’s say that I do decide to follow him and settle in a new city for 25 years, I would think even harder about leaving this new city to start all over again at 75 because I would think about the cost and the wear and tear on my family; it would not be an easy task. I take my hat off to them because making this type of decision implies two things: One, being sure that God spoke to me, and two, having a very intimate relationship with God, being able to differentiate His Voice from mine or from others.
Another very important lesson is that Abram captured the Eternal voice in his mind, springing from the depths of his being, when he had not yet completed the Covenant of circumcision with God. This is very powerful; all the men from Adam to Abram were not circumcised; Judaism did not yet exist; in fact, there was no clear monotheistic concept, rather after the Flood, the world had become idolatrous, henotheistic (devotion to a single primary god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities) and pantheistic. This is a fundamental and powerful concept… we do not have to be circumcised to speak with the Eternal; any human being can speak to God, serve God, fear God, walk in His Paths and love His neighbor. God does not have religious labels; in fact, he does not need any religion to exist. The only thing religion does is to generate rules and put patterns of thoughts in order, but what a joy, as Shemot 33:19 says, “and I will give favor to whomever I do and I will show mercy to whomever I show mercy.” In this sense, Rav Shaul speaks to the Kehilah of Rome chapter 9:16: “Therefore, the choice does not depend on human desire or effort, but on the mercy of God.” And that is why the prophet Hosea receives Divine inspiration when he writes in his book in chapter 2:25 “And I will say to those who are not My people: “You are My people”, and they will say: “(You are) My God. ” I mean, what a joy! God is the God of everything created, the visible and the invisible, and no matter your origin, you can begin a relationship with Him.
There is an apparent contradiction between the story in which Terah says that he is the one who leaves Ur and the call that Abram receives. While he studied it very slowly, I remember what our RANEBI often explained to us: the Torah is not written chronologically, but rather according to its importance. If we read carefully, chapter 12:1 says, “And the LORD said to Abram:
1- Go away – lech lecha – לֶךְ־לְךָ֛
2- from your land -me’artzecha- מֵֽאַרְצְךָ֥
3-from your birthplace -u’mi’moledetecha- וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖
4- from your father’s house -u’mi’beit avicha- וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ
5- to the land that I will show you” – el-ha’aretz asher ar’echa.- אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ
When we break down the text, the apparent contradiction is resolved. The beauty of this is that in a single sentence, divided into these five lines that I just read, summarize the message that Abram had received and would take place over the next 75 years.
First, “lech lecha – Go within”, search within yourself, there is Divinity, the Divine spark is within you. This applies to every human being; it is a universal law. Not all humans have the awareness that God is in our inner being, but Bereshit 2:7 is very simple, it says: “And the LORD God formed man from the dust of the earth, and breathed the soul of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being.” We all receive this breath of life at conception, and that makes the difference between a living body and an inert one. This breath of life is the Divine breath that imbues us with consciousness; it is part of the Eternal image placed within limited beings, and it is from there that the connection with Divinity comes. Some might attribute it to the pituitary gland that receives these vibrations from the ethereal senses, but we all become aware, to a greater or lesser extent, of the perception of the Divinity within and outside of us. That is why Devarim 30:11 and 14 later say, “For this commandment that I command you today is not hidden from you, nor is it far from you… but the word is very close to you, in your mouth and your heart, so that you can obey it.” Therefore we must look within ourselves, where God is and deepen our inner being to reconnect with the Eternal.
Second, “ me’artzecha -leave your homeland”. This fits with the idea in the Talmud which says that Abraham, at the time of his birth, was taken from his land to preserve his life in a cave since his death had been decreed by Nimrod and that when he grew up, Abram searched for Noah and Shem who expanded the consciousness of monotheism in him. Then he returned to his homeland when God told him to “get out of your land;” this captures the idea of leaving the “land.” How do we know there was a connection between Noach and Shem with Abram? Simple, when Abraham was born, Noach was 892 years old and Shem was 390 years old; when Abram died, Shem was still alive, and Noach died when Abram was 58 years old.
Third, “u’mi’moledetecha – leave your birthplace”. It seems that it is Abram who received and heard the voice of the Eternal to leave Ur, but the Torah is so protective not to leave Abram’s father in a bad light, that it gives merit to Terah for leaving Ur, placing Abram as a follower to Haran. However, from what is written, it seems that Abram would not have moved if he had not previously heard the voice of the Eternal to go out and have this conviction, confidence and certainty that it was God who was moving them from place to place. Abram had to leave his supposed family in Ur.
Fourth, “u’mi’beit advice -leave your father’s house”. He received this message while his father was still alive, but he carried it out after his father died. He was not punished for it, since he was honoured by his elderly father so as not to be a cause of sadness and hasten his death. Even in this, we see the principle that the commandments are for the living. However, although he did not know where he would go, he knew that he had to separate from his brother Nahor at approximately 70 years of age since according to the opinion of our sages, his journey lasted between 3 to 5 years.
Fifth, “el-ha’aretz asher ar’echa – to the land where I will show you”. It is obvious that, as a man and head of the household, it is difficult to offer a nomadic lifestyle to a wife and to all those who followed him, and to his heir apparent at the time, Lot. Sometimes I question Lot’s motives for following him since it is clear that Lot and his possessions were one, as we read in Bereshit 14:12 “And they took Lot and his possessions, the son of Abram’s brother.” I agree with what Rabbi Eli Resnick wrote when he says, “Shouldn’t the verse say, “and they took Lot, son of Abraham’s brother, and his property”? The answer is clear, the inheritance and Lot were the same, they were one.” Lot means “veil” and it seems that he had been blinded by material possessions causing him to end up in a cave without his wife, with a daughter problem, and WITHOUT ANYTHING material.
On the other hand, we see that Abram left without knowing where he was going, as Hebrews 11:8 says, “By emunah (faith) Abraham, when he was called, obeyed, leaving for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he left without knowing where he was going.” I like the idea developed by Chabad that I read this week, where they say that Abraham was accustomed to acting for himself and doing what was right, but the blessing was not open to him until he obeyed the voice, as I quote verbatim. “This is the first time that God speaks directly to Abraham and orders him to do something. And Abraham does so immediately, believing in God without question. In the other stories, Abraham does things on his own.”
A man’s greatest blessing is to know his purpose, and this blessing was given to Abraham in 12:2, when he says, “You will be a blessing.” God blessed Abraham and everything He blesses cannot be cursed. In the next verse, it says that God’s command is that He will bless those who recognize that Abraham is a blessing and curse those who question this.
We often try to obtain different results by repeating the same thing every day, through certain patterns of behavior and conduct, or following philosophies, cultures or the latest fashions. But these won’t produce change in our life, in our being. If, for example, we follow the “death to Israel” or anti-Semitic fads, defending those who curse and kill the Jews, won’t produce blessings in our lives. We must open our eyes. We must act like Abraham, thinking differently and against the prevailing thoughts of his day. This is only achieved through the knowledge of God and His attributes through the study of the Torah. However, knowing what is written is not enough; we must also learn to relate to him, to speak with him daily, to meditate, and to shut our mouths and open our ears to the spiritual and thus capture His voice.
If we awaken this spiritual gift, we will see God in all situations of our daily life, in the good, in the apparent bad, in our neighbors, in creation, in the messages of life, and above all, in that inner voice that stops us from responding to him the way Abraham did. As the prophet Isaiah said in 6:8 “Hineni, Here I am”, willing to believe and obey Your Eternal Voice over cultures, fashions, ideas, patterns of behavior and vain tendencies. By so doing, we will be An ECHAD, A BLESSING to the people around us. Remember, what God has blessed, who can curse? Remember the words of the wicked Bilaam in Bamidbar 23:8: “How can I curse him who God has not cursed?” It is my prayer that we see ourselves as blessed by the Eternal; let us not even dare to speak ill of ourselves for God has already blessed us by the merits of our fathers and mothers. What we must decide to do is to obey with Emunah, by believing, trusting in the Eternal, and stopping the repetition of fruitless actions and behaviors, and then we will be a blessing.
Mr. Mauricio Quintero