Parsha Leh Leha

Avram’s Journeys


When does a journey begin? When you plan it? When you start? When you get half way? Or when you complete the voyage?

All these possibilities, might apply to Avram’s journey ( he was Avraham after he was Avram). When did God command him to go? In Chapter 11 the Torah says Avram was living in Ur of the Chaldees, a location close to where Basra is today at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rives. Terah his father had two sons Avram and Nahor. Nahor died so Terah took Avram and his family and Nahor’s son Lot and his family and they travelled up the Euphrates to Haran which is on the Turkish Syrian border today. There Terah died. Only then does the Torah tell us the God commanded Avram to leave his birth place and travel south to Canaan, even though he had already left his birthplace when Terah began the migration.

One might think that there were two different stories, different narratives that describe the family migration. One led by Avram and the other by Terah.

But one could look at this as a narrative with two messages. One is the physical change of location. To get from Basra to Canaan in those days one needed to follow the water routes up the Euphrates. To cut cross, the quickest way as the crow flies, would involve crossing inhospitable desert. So, the detour they took in fact was the safest and easiest rout even if it was longer. Even when one thinks one is travelling under Divine protection one still to be practical.

But it also involved a cultural migration. From Ur to Assyria. From one pagan society to another. It was a process of loosening the connection with one’s past in stages as Avram transitioned into a monotheistic state. Sudden dramatic conversions are always a little suspect. But a process of realization that one was leaving one world behind and then arriving at another, imperfect one, allowed for a transformation in stages and process of detachment from the past. As one will see with Lot, this transition was not always successful.