The Jewish journey starts in this week’s sedra with the immortal instruction to Avraham to leave his land, his birthplace and his father’s house to go to an unknown destination. While the Torah is sparing with the details of the backstory, rabbinic literature is replete with descriptions of the young Avram as a searcher and truth seeker.
Avram is someone who lives with the courage of his convictions. He is referred to as Avraham Ha-Ivri, which literally means, “Avraham from the other side”. While the simple meaning behind this title is geographical location, as he came from beyond the Euphrates, there is a deeper message for us too.
The Midrash describes him as being on one side of a metaphorical river with all of humanity on the other side. Indeed, he was willing to sacrifice everything for his beliefs, regardless of the social pressure surrounding him because of the courage of his convictions, long before God appeared to him with the immortal words of ‘lech lecha’.
The knowledge that the universe has a Creator and that humanity can develop a personal relationship with God was revolutionary in its time and altered the course of world history.
It’s no coincidence his descendants are called Ivriim, Hebrews, and the official language of Israel is Ivrit or Hebrew.
Avraham’s message becomes part of our national consciousness. It is because of this our religion and identity has tenaciously withstood the test of time, with every generation understanding the role they have to play in maintaining it.
- Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director of Jewish Futures Trust
- Save the date – Jewish News presents The Big Event on 17 November!