Torah Portion

Lech Lecha

לך לך

Genesis 12:1-17:27
Isaiah 40:27–41:16

The Nations of Abraham: Explaining Israel’s Position in the Persian Empire

The Nations of Abraham: Explaining Israel’s Position in the Persian Empire

God promises Abram that his descendants will be a great nation in Genesis 12, while in Genesis 17, Abraham and Sarah are to become the forebears of a multitude of nations. A postcolonial analysis highlights how each image reflects a different way that Judeans grappled with their place and future in a world ruled by the vast and powerful Persian Empire.

Prof.
Mark G. Brett
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Abraham’s Migration and Name Change: A Story for the Babylonian Exiles

Abraham’s Migration and Name Change: A Story for the Babylonian Exiles

Abram’s journey from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan, and God’s changing his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude of nations,” presage the struggles and aspirations of his descendants’ return migration from Babylon to Judah. At stake is Isaiah’s vision about the place of Israel among the nations.

Prof.
Hyun Chul Paul Kim
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Abraham and Sarah in Egypt: A Story Composed to Prefigure the Exodus

Abraham and Sarah in Egypt: A Story Composed to Prefigure the Exodus

The sister-wife story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt reworks the sister-wife story of Isaac and Rebekah in Gerar. The passage is an intertextual bricolage, composed to have Abraham, the paradigmatic “first Israelite,” personally experience the nation's core redemptive event.

Prof.
Christoph Levin
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Ishmael, King of the Arabs

Ishmael, King of the Arabs

Throughout the Bible, Ishmaelite is a collective term for nomads living in the wilderness, east of Canaan. Why is their eponymous ancestor Ishmael, Abraham’s exiled son, presented as living in the wilderness region near Egypt, west of Canaan? The answer can be found in the political realities of Persian period Yehud.

Prof.
Yairah Amit
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Ur Kasdim: Where Is Abraham’s Birthplace?

Ur Kasdim: Where Is Abraham’s Birthplace?

Ur-Kasdim is generally identified with the great Sumerian city of Ur in southern Iraq. And yet, a look at the geography in Genesis 11 points to a different location much farther north.

Prof.
Gary Rendsburg
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Allegorizers of Torah and the Story of Their Prosecution in Languedoc

Allegorizers of Torah and the Story of Their Prosecution in Languedoc

In 1305, the great Catalonian Sage, Rashba, tried to limit philosophic study and interpretation of Torah in Languedoc (southern France). In the process, he and went so far as to excommunicate one of the great scholars involved in such philosophical readings of Torah, Levi ben Avraham ben Hayyim of Villefranche-de-Conflent.

Dr.
Gregg Stern
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The Rabbinic Chronology of Lech Lecha

The Rabbinic Chronology of Lech Lecha

An analysis of the Rabbinic interpretation that the covenant of the pieces predates the Lech Lecha command.

Prof. Rabbi
David R. Blumenthal
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Seven Torah Passages of Non-Mosaic Origin According to Ibn Ezra and R. Joseph Bonfils

Seven Torah Passages of Non-Mosaic Origin According to Ibn Ezra and R. Joseph Bonfils

A Source Sheet listing R’ Avraham ibn Ezra’s Six Non-Mosaic Biblical Passages plus his One Counter-Example, with the Complete Text of ibn Ezra’s Comments and Bonfils’ Glosses on these comments in English and Hebrew

Project TABS Editors
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Abraham, Smasher of Idols, and the Question of the Torah’s Historicity

Abraham, Smasher of Idols, and the Question of the Torah’s Historicity

Does Abraham really need to be historical in order to claim an important role in Jewish religious consciousness? Should the Torah be seen as a historical account reported by God, or simply as the story of God?

Dr. Rabbi
Amit Kula
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Circumcision: Is the Foreskin a Defect?

Circumcision: Is the Foreskin a Defect?

Circumcision seemingly maims the body, yet ancient Jewish and rabbinic interpretation present it as actually perfecting the body.

Dr.
David Bernat
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Joshua Circumcises Israel in Response to Egypt’s Scorn

Joshua Circumcises Israel in Response to Egypt’s Scorn

Before circumcision was a mitzvah, it was a cultural marker: Thus Joshua introduces circumcision to Israel at Gilgal (Joshua 5:2-9), Jacob’s sons insist that the Shechemites circumcise before Shechem marries their sister (Genesis 34), and the Israelites scorn the Philistines for being uncircumcised (Judges 14:3).

Prof. Rabbi
David Frankel
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How Did Abraham Discover God? The Experiential Approach

How Did Abraham Discover God? The Experiential Approach

The midrashic Parable of the Illuminated Palace concerns Abraham and the existence of God. In Part 1, we looked at Maimonides rationalistic, Aristotelian approach. Alternative interpretations focus on the idea of an experiential, living relationship with God.

Dr. Rabbi
Seth (Avi) Kadish
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What Caused the War Between the Kings? Philo’s Dual Interpretation

What Caused the War Between the Kings? Philo’s Dual Interpretation

In his account of Abraham’s life, the first-century thinker Philo of Alexandria skillfully interprets the bewildering details in the story of the war between the four and five kings. Understanding the tale on a literal and allegorical level, he offers intriguing suggestions about what motivates both powerful rulers and forces within the soul.

Dr.
Ellen Birnbaum
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Who Assumed Melchizedek’s Priesthood?

Who Assumed Melchizedek’s Priesthood?

Why Melchizedek, a minor biblical character, became so significant in Jewish and Christian interpretation.

Prof. Rabbi
Joshua Garroway
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How Did Abraham Discover God? The Rationalistic Approach

How Did Abraham Discover God? The Rationalistic Approach

The midrashic Parable of the Illuminated Palace centers on Abraham and the existence of God. Maimonides’ interpretation of the parable envisions an Aristotelian Abraham for whom God is a scientific fact.

Dr. Rabbi
Seth (Avi) Kadish
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What Kind of Hero Is Abraham?

What Kind of Hero Is Abraham?

The lack of details surrounding God’s first call to Abram—לך לך, “go forth”—or about Abram’s trip to Canaan contrasts starkly with other biblical figures, highlighting that Abraham is not a typical hero.

Prof.
Everett Fox
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Lech Lecha

לך לך

Genesis 12:1-17:27

וְלֹא־יִקָּרֵא עוֹד אֶת־שִׁמְךָ אַבְרָם וְהָיָה שִׁמְךָ אַבְרָהָם כִּי אַב־הֲמוֹן גּוֹיִם נְתַתִּיךָ׃

בראשית יז:ה

And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I make you the father of a multitude of nations.

Gen 17:5

Genesis

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