In parshat Lech Lecha, Rabbi Dov Haiyun explores the journey of Abraham from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan. What drives Abraham to pick up despite the roots he puts down, and what does his story teach us about alliance to our own truths over alliance to a nation?
“…every human being has a soul, made in the image of God, and therefore, is himself an end, not merely a means to satisfy the desires of the regimes of tyrants. ” PHOTO: Abraham contemplates the stars, 1908, Ephraim Moses Lilien
By: Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun
Without any prior notice, the spirit of Abraham received Hashem’s voice, commanding him:
“Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
In those days, Abraham lived in Haran, where he had fled, with his father’s help, from Ur of the Chaldees. As it says in the end of the story of Noah:
“And Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter in law, the wife of Abram his son, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan, and they came as far as Haran and settled there” (Genesis 11:31).
A Persecuted Man
Back there, he was persecuted fiercely due to his dissemination of the belief in one God. He had come to Haran with no other option, as a persecuted man. In Haran, though, he earned himself the status of a respected citizen, accumulating substantial wealth and even a growing influence on the population.
After his departure, we are told:
“And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan…” (Genesis 12:5).
And now, out of the blue, Abraham receives an order that will remove him from his brand new surroundings where he is trying to put down roots. Why?
It was not as if success welcomed him in during his first days in Haran. And Canaan is going to turn out better?
It ends up that this is not another story of migration in Abram’s life, but one of aliyah.
Go to yourself, on your own…on your path.
Go down a path that will take you away from your land, and your birthplace, and from your father’s house, from all the relationships you have known until now.
Emigrants leaving England. “The Last of England” by Ford Madox Brown
The first migration from Ur of the Chaldees was really a necessary escape, a rescue mission, whereas in this commandment, the journey is a goal unto itself.
Abraham’s Second Rebellion
Let’s imagine this scene:
Without any existential need, without any evident reason, Abraham gets up and announces to his many friends that he is leaving the city and his lofty status within it, to go live in a land completely foreign to him.
The departure of this exalted man from people left its mark, of course, on the city’s residents, wondering fruitlessly, not understanding, why he was leaving.
In effect, this wonderment itself was already an accomplishment of part of God’s goals. That is, Abraham’s journey constituted a defiant challenge, the results of which continue to echo from end of the world to the other.
This is Abraham’s second rebellion. The first declared itself in the struggle conducted against the pagan culture that dominated his early days. The rage of those regimes sent him to Haran. In his journeying from Haran, he expressed his opposition to the system itself, to the very concept of “regime” at that time.
His departure to Canaan was a protest march by one person, as an individual and not as a nation. In this hour, while everyone is rushing in their own lands to obtain citizenship and all it brings, Abraham stands up, with no man forcing him to, just obedience to the highest imperative, and sacrifices those very benefits.
The courage to stand on our own, apart from the regimes of man
In effect, this journey cries out to the people of that astonished city, and to every generation, as the greatest protest against the spiritual and physical enslavement to any form of regime. The journey on its own is a return on value. It declares the clear truth that the individual is the basis of Judaism and of human society. And that a human being – every human being – has a soul, made in the image of God, and therefore, is himself an end, not merely a means to satisfy the desires of the regimes of tyrants.
African asylum seekers, who journeyed to Israel mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, protest their detainment in Israel’s Holot facility deep in the Negev.
Singularly, Abraham struggled against the mainstream of his peers and towards his inner truth, and in so doing, bequeathed upon humanity the attribute of courage, courage to be in the minority and to not concede one’s inner truth. Shabbat shalom!
Rabbi Dov (Dubi) Haiyun is the leader of Kehilat Moriah in Haifa and a member of Rabbis for Human Rights
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