"Abraham and the Angels" by artist Aert de Gelder. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Living Torah

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

So that there be no mistake or misunderstanding whatsoever, the Torah specifies exactly which land God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: The Land of Israel!

The story of Abraham is told in chapters 11 to 25 of the Book of Genesis. Abraham’s story is one of family, particularly children, and the Land of Israel. I hope you enjoy this brief summary of Abraham’s life that I prepared!

Abraham was born and given the name “Abram” in the city of Ur in Babylonia in the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE). He was the son of Terach, an idol merchant. Right from his early childhood on he questioned the idolatrous faith of his father and always sought the truth. He eventually came to the realization that the entire universe was the work of a single Creator, and he began to teach this belief to others.

Abraham was the first person ever to be referred to as a “Hebrew” (Ivri). The designation “Hebrew” refers to the fact that he descended from Eber (Eber = Ivri in Hebrew) and that he came from the “other side” (ever) of the Euphrates River.

Abraham tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. The Midrash (rabbinic literature) tells the story that one day, when Abraham was left alone to mind his father’s idol store, he took a hammer and smashed all of them except for the largest one. He then placed the hammer in the hand of this last remaining idol. When his father returned to the store and saw the big mess (and financial loss!) that awaited him, he asked Abraham what in the world had happened! Abraham calmly responded that “all the idols got into a fight, and the big idol smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous! Idols have no life or strength or power! They can’t do anything!” To which Abraham replied, “AHA! Then why do you worship them?”

Eventually, the one true God that Abraham had worshipped called out to him and made him an offer: If Abraham would leave his home and his family and head to a new land (Israel!), God would make him a great nation and bless him. Abraham accepted this offer, and the brit (covenant) between God and the Jewish people was established forever.

Abraham eventually became concerned because he had no children and was growing old. Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah (originally “Sarai”) knew that she was past her child-bearing years, so she offered her maidservant, Hagar, as a wife to Abraham. This was common practice in the region at the time. According to tradition, Hagar was a daughter of Pharaoh, given to Abraham during his travels in Egypt. She bore Abraham a son, Ishmael, who, according to both Muslim and Jewish tradition, is the ancestor of the Arabs.

The Second Patriarch of the Hebrew Nation is Born

When Abraham was 100 and Sara 90, God promised Abraham a son by Sarah. It was then that God changed his name to Abraham (meaning “father of many”), and her name to Sarah (meaning “princess”). Sarah bore Abraham a son, Isaac, a name derived from the word “laughter,” expressing Abraham’s joy at having a son in his old age. Isaac became the second patriarch of the Jewish people. Abraham died at the age of 175.

So that there should be no mistake or misunderstanding whatsoever, the Torah specifies exactly which land God was giving to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It was the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites – ISRAEL! Abraham arrived in the Land of Israel (then called “Canaan”) and travelled throughout the land of Israel for many years.