Lech-Lecha

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Lech-Lecha, Lekh-Lekha, or Lech-L'cha (לֶךְ-לְךָHebrew for "go!" or "leave!", literally "go for you" — the fifth and sixth words in the parashah) is the third weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parashah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis 12:1–17:27. The parashah is made up of 6,336 Hebrew letters, 1,686 Hebrew words, and 126 verses, and can occupy about 208 lines in a Torah Scroll (סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה, Sefer Torah).[1] Jews read it on the third Sabbath after Simchat Torah, in October or November.[2]

The parashah tells the stories of God’s calling of Abram (who would become Abraham), Abram’s passing off his wife Sarai as his sister, Abram’s dividing the land with his nephew Lot, the war between the four kings and the five, the covenant between the pieces, Sarai’s tensions with her maid Hagar and Hagar’s son Ishmael, and the covenant of circumcision (בְּרִית מִילָה, brit milah).

Abram and Melchizedek (painting circa 1625 by Peter Paul Rubens)

Readings[edit]

In traditional Sabbath Torah reading, the parashah is divided into seven readings, or עליות, aliyot. In the Masoretic Text of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), Parashah Lech-Lecha has three "open portion" (פתוחה, petuchah) divisions (roughly equivalent to paragraphs, often abbreviated with the Hebrew letter פ (peh)). Parashah Lech-Lecha has several further subdivisions, called "closed portion" (סתומה, setumah) divisions (abbreviated with the Hebrew letter ס (samekh)) within the open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) divisions. The first open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) divides the first reading (עליה, aliyah). The second open portion (פתוחה, petuchah), covers the balance of the first and all of the second and third readings (עליות, aliyot). The third open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) spans the remaining readings (עליות, aliyot). Closed portion (סתומה, setumah) divisions further divide the fifth and sixth readings (עליות, aliyot).[3]

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)

First reading — Genesis 12:1–13[edit]

In the first reading (עליה, aliyah), God told Abram to leave his native land and his father’s house for a land that God would show him, promising to make of him a great nation, bless him, make his name great, bless those who blessed him, and curse those who cursed him.[4] Following God’s command, at age 75, Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the wealth and persons that they had acquired in Haran, and traveled to the terebinth of Moreh, at Shechem in Canaan.[5] God appeared to Abram to tell him that God would assign the land to his heirs, and Abram built an altar to God.[6] Abram then moved to the hill country east of Bethel and built an altar to God there and invoked God by name.[7] Then Abram journeyed toward the Negeb.[8] The first open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) ends here.[9]

Abram’s Counsel to Sarai (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

In the continuation of the reading, famine struck the land, so Abram went down to Egypt, asking Sarai to say that she was his sister so that the Egyptians would not kill him.[10] The first reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[11]

Second reading — Genesis 12:14–13:4[edit]

In the second reading (עליה, aliyah), when Abram and Sarai entered Egypt, Pharaoh’s courtiers praised Sarai’s beauty to Pharaoh, and she was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh took Sarai as his wife.[12] Because of her, Abram acquired sheep, oxen, donkeys, slaves, and camels, but God afflicted Pharaoh and his household with mighty plagues.[13] Pharaoh questioned Abram why he had not told Pharaoh that Sarai was Abram’s wife, but had said that she was his sister.[14] Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abram and had his men take them away with all their possessions.[15] Abram, Sarai, and Lot returned to the altar near Bethel.[16] The second reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[17]

Abraham and Lot Divided the Land (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster)

Third reading — Genesis 13:5–18[edit]

In the third reading (עליה, aliyah), Abram and Lot now had so many sheep and cattle that the land could not support them both, and their herdsmen quarreled.[18] Abram proposed to Lot that they separate, inviting Lot to choose which land he would take.[19] Lot saw how well watered the plain of the Jordan was, so he chose it for himself, and journeyed eastward, settling near Sodom, a city of very wicked sinners, while Abram remained in Canaan.[20] God promised to give all the land that Abram could see to him and his offspring forever, and to make his offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth.[21] Abram moved to the terebinths of Mamre in Hebron, and built an altar there to God.[22] The third reading (עליה, aliyah) and the second open portion (פתוחה, petuchah) end here with the end of chapter 13.[23]

Meeting of Abram and Melchizedek (painting circa 1464–1467 by Dieric Bouts the Elder)

Fourth reading — Genesis 14:1–20[edit]

In the fourth reading (עליה, aliyah), in chapter 14, the Mesopotamian Kings Amraphel of Shinar, Arioch of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer of Elam, and Tidal of Goiim made war on the Canaanite kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar, who joined forces at the Valley of Siddim, now the Dead Sea.[24] The Canaanite kings had served Chedorlaomer for twelve years, but rebelled in the thirteenth year.[25] In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and the Mesopotamian kings with him went on a military campaign and defeated several peoples in and around Canaan: the Rephaim, the Zuzim, the Emim, the Horites, the Amalekites, and the Amorites.[26] Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar engaged the four Mesopotamian kings in battle in the Valley of Siddim.[27] The Mesopotamians routed the Canaanites, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled into bitumen pits in the valley, while the rest escaped to the hill country.[28] The Mesopotamians seized all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as Lot and his possessions, and departed.[29] A fugitive brought the news to Abram, who mustered his 318 retainers, and pursued the invaders north to Dan.[30] Abram and his servants defeated them at night, chased them north of Damascus, and brought back all the people and possessions, including Lot and his possessions.[31] When Abram returned, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, the Valley of the King.[32] King Melchizedek of Salem (Jerusalem), a priest of God Most High, brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram and God Most High, and Abram gave him a tenth of everything.[33] The fourth reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[34]

The Vision of the Lord Directing Abram to Count the Stars (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)

Fifth reading — Genesis 14:21–15:6[edit]

In the fifth reading (עליה, aliyah), the king of Sodom offered Abram to keep all the possessions if he would merely return the people, but Abram swore to God Most High not to take so much as a thread or a sandal strap from Sodom, but would take only shares for the men who went with him.[35] A closed portion (סתומה, setumah) ends here with the end of chapter 14.[36]

As the reading (עליה, aliyah) continues in chapter 15, some time later, the word of God appeared to Abram, saying not to fear, for his reward would be very great, but Abram questioned what God could give him, as he was destined to die childless, and his steward Eliezer of Damascus would be his heir.[37] The word of God replied that Eliezer would not be his heir, Abram’s own son would.[38] God took Abram outside and bade him to count the stars, for so numerous would his offspring be, and because Abram put his trust in God, God reckoned it to his merit.[39] The fifth reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[40]

Sixth reading — Genesis 15:7–17:6[edit]

In the sixth reading (עליה, aliyah), God directed Abram to bring three heifers, three goats, three rams, a turtledove, and a bird, to cut the non-birds in two, and to place each half opposite the other.[41] Abram drove away birds of prey that came down upon the carcasses, and as the sun was about to set, he fell into a deep sleep.[42] God told Abram that his offspring would be strangers in a land not theirs, and be enslaved 400 years, but God would execute judgment on the nation they were to serve, and in the end they would go free with great wealth and return in the fourth generation, after the iniquity of the Amorites was complete.[43] And there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch, which passed between the pieces.[44] And God made a covenant with Abram to assign to his offspring the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates: the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.[45] A closed portion (סתומה, setumah) ends here with the end of chapter 15.[46]

Sarah Presenting Hagar to Abraham (1699 painting by Adriaen van der Werff)
Hagar and the Angel in the Desert (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

As the reading continues in chapter 16, having borne no children after 10 years in Canaan, Sarai bade Abram to consort with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar, so that Sarai might have a son through her, and Abram did as Sarai requested.[47] When Hagar saw that she had conceived, Sarai was lowered in her esteem, and Sarai complained to Abram.[48] Abram told Sarai that her maid was in her hands, and Sarai treated her harshly, so Hagar ran away.[49] An angel of God found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness, and asked her where she came from and where she was going, and she replied that she was running away from her mistress.[50] The angel told her to go back to her mistress and submit to her harsh treatment, for God would make Hagar’s offspring too numerous to count; she would bear a son whom she should name Ishmael, for God had paid heed to her suffering.[51] Ishmael would be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him, but he would dwell alongside his kinsmen.[52] Hagar called God “El-roi,” meaning that she had gone on seeing after God saw her, and the well was called Beer-lahai-roi.[53] And when Abram was 86 years old, Hagar bore him a son, and Abram gave him the name Ishmael.[54] A closed portion (סתומה, setumah) ends here with the end of chapter 16.[55]

As the reading continues in chapter 17, when Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to Abram as El Shaddai and asked him to walk in God’s ways and be blameless, for God would establish a covenant with him and make him exceedingly numerous.[56] Abram threw himself on his face, and God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, promising to make him the father of a multitude of nations and kings.[57] The sixth reading (עליה, aliyah) ends here.[58]

Seventh reading — Genesis 17:7–27[edit]

In the seventh reading (עליה, aliyah), God promised to maintain the covenant with Abraham and his offspring as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, and assigned all the land of Canaan to him and his offspring as an everlasting holding.[59] God further told Abraham that he and his offspring throughout the ages were to keep God’s covenant and every male (including every slave) was to be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin at the age of eight days as a sign of the covenant with God.[60] If any male failed to circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, that person was to be cut off from his kin for having broken God’s covenant.[61] And God renamed Sarai as Sarah, and told Abraham that God would bless her and give Abraham a son by her so that she would give rise to nations and rulers.[62] Abraham threw himself on his face and laughed at the thought that a child could be born to a man of a hundred and a woman of ninety, and Abraham asked God to bless Ishmael.[63] But God told him that Sarah would bear Abraham a son, and Abraham was to name him Isaac, and God would maintain the everlasting covenant with him and his offspring.[64] In response to Abraham’s prayer, God blessed Ishmael as well and promised to make him exceedingly numerous, the father of twelve chieftains and a great nation.[65] But God would maintain the covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah would bear at the same season the next year.[66] And when God finished speaking, God disappeared.[67] That very day, Abraham circumcised himself, Ishmael, and every male in his household, as God had directed.[68] The maftir (מפטיר) reading that concludes the parashah[69] reports that when Abraham circumcised himself and his household, Abraham was 99 and Ishmael was 13.[70] The seventh reading (עליה, aliyah), the third open portion (פתוחה, petuchah), chapter 17, and the parashah end here.[69]

God's Promise to Abram (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)
The Caravan of Abram (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

In inner-biblical interpretation[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these Biblical sources:[71]

Genesis chapter 12[edit]

Joshua 24:2 reports that Abram’s father Terah lived beyond the River Euphrates and served other gods.

While Genesis 11:31 reports that Terah took Abram, Lot, and Sarai from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, and Genesis 12:1 subsequently reports God’s call to Abram to leave his country and his father’s house, Nehemiah 9:7 reports that God chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees.

Genesis chapter 15[edit]

While Leviticus 12:6–8 required a new mother to bring a burnt-offering and a sin-offering, Leviticus 26:9, Deuteronomy 28:11, and Psalm 127:3–5 make clear that having children is a blessing from God; Genesis 15:2 and 1 Samuel 1:5–11 characterize childlessness as a misfortune; and Leviticus 20:20 and Deuteronomy 28:18 threaten childlessness as a punishment.

In early nonrabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these early nonrabbinic sources:

Genesis chapter 12[edit]

Acts 7:2–4 reported that God appeared to Abram while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and told him to leave his country and his people, and then he left the land of the Chaldeans to settle in Haran. And then after Terah’s death, God sent Abraham to Canaan.

Philo interpreted Abram’s migration allegorically as the story of a soul devoted to virtue and searching for the true God.[72]

In classical rabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah is discussed in these rabbinic sources from the era of the Mishnah and the Talmud:

Upper image: Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son. Lower image: Abraham miraculously unharmed after being cast into fire by Nimrod (1583 illustration from the manuscript Zubdat-al Tawarikh in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul)

Genesis chapter 12[edit]

The Mishnah taught that Abraham suffered ten trials and withstood them all, demonstrating how great Abraham’s love was for God.[73] The Avot of Rabbi Natan taught[74] that two trials were at the time he was bidden to leave Haran,[75] two were with his two sons,[76] two were with his two wives,[77] one was in the wars of the Kings,[78] one was at the covenant between the pieces,[79] one was in Ur of the Chaldees (where, according to a tradition, he was thrown into a furnace and came out unharmed[80]), and one was the covenant of circumcision.[81] Similarly, the Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer counted as the 10 trials (1) when Abraham was a child and all the magnates of the kingdom and the magicians sought to kill him (see below), (2) when he was put into prison for ten years and cast into the furnace of fire, (3) his migration from his father’s house and from the land of his birth, (4) the famine, (5) when Sarah his wife was taken to be Pharaoh’s wife, (6) when the kings came against him to slay him, (7) when (in the words of Genesis 17:1) “the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision,” (8) when Abram was 99 years old and God asked him to circumcise himself, (9) when Sarah asked Abraham (in the words of Genesis 21:10) to “Cast out this bondwoman and her son,” and (10) the binding of Isaac.[82]

The Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer told that the first trial was when Abram was born, and all the magnates of the kingdom and the magicians sought to kill him. Abram’s family hid Abram in a cave for 13 years, during which he never saw the sun or moon. After 13 years, Abram came out speaking the holy language, Hebrew, and he despised idols and held in abomination the graven images, and he trusted in God, saying (in the words of Psalm 84:12): “Blessed is the man who trusts in You.” In the second trial, Abram was put in prison for ten years — three years in Kuthi, seven years in Budri. After 10 years, they brought him out and cast him into the furnace of fire, and God delivered him from the furnace of fire, as Genesis 15:7 says, “And He said to him, ‘I am the Lord who brought you out of the furnace of the Chaldees.” Similarly, Nehemiah 9:7 reports, “You are the Lord the God, who did choose Abram, and brought him forth out of the furnace of the Chaldees.” The third trial was Abram’s migration from his father’s house and from the land of his birth. God brought him to Haran, and there his father Terah died, and Athrai his mother. The Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer taught that migration is harder for a human than for any other creature. And Genesis 12:1 tells of his migration when it says, “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Get out.’”[83]

Rabbi Hiyya said that Abram's father Terah manufactured idols (as Joshua 24:2 implies), and once Terah went away and left Abram to mind the store. A man came and asked to buy an idol. Abram asked the man how old he was. The man replied that he was 50 years old. Abram exclaimed that it was a shame that a man of 50 would worship a day-old object. The man became embarrassed and left. On another occasion, a woman came with a plate of flour and asked Abram to offer it to the idols. Abram took a stick, broke the idols, and put the stick in the largest idol’s hand. When Terah returned, he demanded that Abram explain what he had done. Abram told Terah that the idols fought among themselves to be fed first, and the largest broke the others with the stick. Terah asked Abram why he made sport of him, for the idols had no consciousness. Abram replied by asking Terah to listen to what he had just said. Thereupon Terah seized Abram and delivered him to Nimrod, king of Shinar. Nimrod proposed that they worship the fire. Abram replied that they should rather worship water, which extinguishes fire. Nimrod agreed to worship water. Abram replied that they should rather worship clouds, which bear the water. Nimrod agreed to worship the clouds. Abram replied that they should rather worship the winds, which disperse the clouds. Nimrod agreed to worship the wind. Abram replied that they should rather worship human beings, who withstand the wind. Nimrod then accused Abram of just bandying words, and decreed that they would worship nothing but the fire. Nimrod cast Abram into the fire, challenging Abram’s God to save him from it. Haran was standing there undecided. Haran thought to himself that if Abram survived, then Haran would say that he was of Abram's faith, but if Nimrod was victorious, then Haran would say that he was on Nimrod's side. When Abram descended into the fiery furnace, God saved him. Nimrod then asked Haran whose belief he shared. Haran replied that he shared Abram's faith. Thereupon Nimrod cast Haran into the fire, and he died in his father's presence, as Genesis 11:28 reports, “And Haran died in the presence of (עַל-פְּנֵי, al pene) his father Terah.”[84]

God's Promises to Abram (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Rabbi Isaac compared Abram’s thinking to that of a man who was travelling from place to place when he saw a building in flames. He wondered whether it was possible that the building could lack a person to look after it. At that moment, the owner of the building appeared and said that he owned the building. Similarly, Abram questioned whether it was conceivable that the world could exist without a Guide to look after it. At that moment, God told Abram that God is the Guide, the Sovereign of the Universe. At that moment, in the words of Genesis 12:1, “The Lord said to Abraham: ‘Get out of your country.’”[85]

The Gemara reported that some deduced from Genesis 12:1–2 that change of place can cancel a man’s doom, but another argued that it was the merit of the land of Israel that availed Abraham.[86]

God said, “Go from this country to a land that I will show you.” (1984 illustration by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing)

Rabbi Aha said in the name of Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman (or others say Rabbi Alexandri’s name) in Rabbi Nathan’s name that Abraham knew (and observed) even the laws of the courtyard eruv. Rabbi Phinehas (and others say Rabbi Helkiah and Rabbi Simon) said in the name of Rabbi Samuel that Abraham knew even the new name that God will one day give to Jerusalem, as Jeremiah 3:17 says, “At that time they shall call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of God.’” Rabbi Berekiah, Rabbi Hiyya, and the Rabbis of Babylonia taught in Rabbi Judah’s name that a day does not pass in which God does not teach a new law in the heavenly Court. For as Job 37:2 says, “Hear attentively the noise of His voice, and the meditation that goes out of His mouth.” And meditation refers to nothing but Torah, as Joshua 1:8 says, “You shall meditate therein day and night.” And Abraham knew them all.[87]

Rabbi Eliezer taught that the five Hebrew letters of the Torah that alone among Hebrew letters have two separate shapes (depending whether they are in the middle or the end of a word) — צ פ נ מ כ (Kh, M, N, P, Z) — all relate to the mystery of the redemption. With the letter kaph (כ), God redeemed Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, as in Genesis 12:1, God says, “Get you (לֶךְ-לְךָ, lekh lekha) out of your country, and from your kindred . . . to the land that I will show you.” With the letter mem (מ), Isaac was redeemed from the land of the Philistines, as in Genesis 26:16, the Philistine king Abimelech told Isaac, “Go from us: for you are much mightier (מִמֶּנּוּ, מְאֹד, mimenu m’od) than we.” With the letter nun (נ), Jacob was redeemed from the hand of Esau, as in Genesis 32:12, Jacob prayed, “Deliver me, I pray (הַצִּילֵנִי נָא, hazileini na), from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau.” With the letter pe (פ), God redeemed Israel from Egypt, as in Exodus 3:16–17, God told Moses, “I have surely visited you, (פָּקֹד פָּקַדְתִּי, pakod pakadeti) and (seen) that which is done to you in Egypt, and I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt.” With the letter tsade (צ), God will redeem Israel from the oppression of the kingdoms, and God will say to Israel, I have caused a branch to spring forth for you, as Zechariah 6:12 says, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch (צֶמַח, zemach); and he shall grow up (יִצְמָח, yizmach) out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.” These letters were delivered to Abraham. Abraham delivered them to Isaac, Isaac delivered them to Jacob, Jacob delivered the mystery of the Redemption to Joseph, and Joseph delivered the secret of the Redemption to his brothers, as in Genesis 50:24, Joseph told his brothers, “God will surely visit (פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד, pakod yifkod) you.” Jacob’s son Asher delivered the mystery of the Redemption to his daughter Serah. When Moses and Aaron came to the elders of Israel and performed signs in their sight, the elders told Serah. She told them that there is no reality in signs. The elders told her that Moses said, “God will surely visit (פָּקֹד יִפְקֹד, pakod yifkod) you” (as in Genesis 50:24). Serah told the elders that Moses was the one who would redeem Israel from Egypt, for she heard (in the words of Exodus 3:16), “I have surely visited (פָּקֹד פָּקַדְתִּי, pakod pakadeti) you.” The people immediately believed in God and Moses, as Exodus 4:31 says, “And the people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel.”[88]

Abram's Journey from Ur to Canaan (1850 painting by József Molnár)

Rabbi Berekiah noted that in Genesis 12:2, God had already said, “I will bless you,” and so asked what God added by then saying, “and you be a blessing.” Rabbi Berekiah explained that God was thereby conveying to Abraham that up until that point, God had to bless God’s world, but thereafter, God entrusted the ability to bless to Abraham, and Abraham could thenceforth bless whomever it pleased him to bless.[89]

Rabbi Eleazar interpreted the words, “And in you shall the families of the earth be blessed (וְנִבְרְכוּ, venivrechu)” in Genesis 12:3 to teach that God told Abram that God had two good shoots to graft (lihavrich) onto Abram’s family tree: Ruth the Moabitess (whom Ruth 4:13–22 reports was the ancestor of David) and Naamah the Ammonitess (whom 1 Kings 14:21 reports was the mother of Rehoboam and thus the ancestor or good kings like Hezekiah). And Rabbi Eleazar interpreted the words, “All the families of the earth,” in Genesis 12:3 to teach that even the other families who live on the earth are blessed only for Israel’s sake.[90]

Abram and Lot Depart Out of Haran (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Rav Judah deduced from Genesis 12:3 that to refuse to say grace when given a cup to bless is one of three things that shorten a man’s life.[91] And Rabbi Joshua ben Levi deduced from Genesis 12:3 that every kohen who pronounces the benediction is himself blessed.[92]

Resh Lakish deduced from Genesis 12:5 that the Torah regards the man who teaches Torah to his neighbor’s son as though he had fashioned him.[93]

Similarly, Rabbi Leazar in the name of Rabbi Jose ben Zimra observed that if all the nations assembled to create one insect they could not bring it to life, yet Genesis 12:5 says, “the souls whom they had made in Haran.” Rabbi Leazar in the name of Rabbi Jose ben Zimra interpreted the words “the souls whom they had made” to refer to the proselytes whom Abram and Sarai had converted. The Midrash asked why then Genesis 12:5 did not simply say, “whom they had converted,” and instead says, “whom they had made.” The Midrash answered that Genesis 12:5 thus teaches that one who brings a nonbeliever near to God is like one who created a life. Noting that Genesis 12:5 does not say, “whom he had made,” but instead says “whom they had made,” Rabbi Hunia taught that Abraham converted the men, and Sarah converted the women.[94]

Abram Called To Be a Blessing (illustration from a Bible card published 1906 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

Rabbi Haggai said in Rabbi Isaac's name that all of the Matriarchs were prophets.[95]

The Tanna debe Eliyyahu taught that the world is destined to exist for 6,000 years. The first 2,000 years were to be void, the next 2,000 years were the period of the Torah, and the last 2,000 years are the period of the Messiah. And the Gemara taught that the 2,000 years of the Torah began when, as Genesis 12:5 reports, Abraham and Sarah had gotten souls in Haran, when by tradition Abraham was 52 years old.[96]

The Mishnah equated the terebinth of Moreh to which Abram journeyed in Genesis 12:6 with the terebinths of Moreh to which Moses directed the Israelites to journey in Deuteronomy 11:30 to hear the blessings and curses at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal,[97] and the Talmud equated both with Shechem.[98]

Rabbi Elazar said that one should always anticipate misfortune with prayer; for it was only by virtue of Abram’s prayer between Bethel and Ai reported in Genesis 12:8 that Israel’s troops survived at the Battle of Ai in the days of Joshua.”[99]

The Rabbis deduced from Genesis 12:10 that when there is a famine in town, one should emigrate.[100]

Rabbi Phinehas commented in Rabbi Hoshaya's name that God told Abraham to go forth and tread out a path for his children, for everything written in connection with Abraham is written in connection with his children:[101]

Verse Abraham Verse The Israelites
Genesis 12:10 “And there was a famine in the land.” Genesis 45:6 “For these two years has the famine been in the land.”
Genesis 12:10 “And Abram went down into Egypt.” Numbers 20:15 “And our fathers went down into Egypt.”
Genesis 12:10 “To sojourn there” Genesis 47:4 “To sojourn in the land are we come.”
Genesis 12:10 “For the famine was sore in the land.” Genesis 43:1 “And the famine was sore in the land.”
Genesis 12:11 “And it came to pass, when he was come near (הִקְרִיב, hikriv) to enter into Egypt . . .” Exodus 14:10 “And when Pharaoh drew near (הִקְרִיב, hikriv) . . .”
Genesis 12:12 “And they will kill me, but you they will keep alive.” Exodus 1:22 “Every son that is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.”
Genesis 12:13 “Say, I pray you, that you are my sister, that it may be well with me.” Exodus 1:20 “And God dealt well with the midwives.”
Genesis 12:14 “And it came to pass, that, when Abram had come into Egypt . . .” Exodus 1:1 “Now these are the names of the sons of Israel, who came in Egypt . . .”
Genesis 12:20 “And Pharaoh gave men charge concerning him, and they sent him away.” Exodus 12:33 “And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, to send them out.”
Genesis 13:2 “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” Psalm 105:37 “And He brought them forth with silver and gold.”
Genesis 13:3 “And he went on his journeys.” Numbers 33:1 “These are the journeys of the children of Israel.”

Rav deduced from Genesis 12:11 that Abram had not even looked at his own wife before that point.[102]

Reading the words, “And it came to pass, that, when Abram came into Egypt,” in Genesis 12:14, a Midrash asked why the text at that point mentioned Abraham but not Sarai. The Midrash taught that Abram had put Sarai in a box and locked her in. The Midrash told that when Abram came to the Egyptian customs house, the customs officer demanded that Abram pay the custom duty on the box and its contents, and Abram agreed to pay. The customs officer proposed that Abram must have been carrying garments in the box, and Abram agreed to pay the duty for garments. The customs officer then proposed that Abram must have been carrying silks in the box, and Abram agreed to pay the duty for silks. The customs officer then proposed that Abram must have been carrying precious stones in the box, and Abram agreed to pay the duty for precious stones. But then the customs officer insisted that Abram open the box so that the customs officers could see what it contained. As soon as Abram opened the box, Sarai’s beauty illuminated the land of Egypt.[103]

The Egyptians Admire Sarai's Beauty (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)
Sarai Is Taken to Pharaoh's Palace (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Rabbi Azariah and Rabbi Jonathan in Rabbi Isaac's name taught that Eve's image was transmitted to the reigning beauties of each generation (setting the standard of beauty). 1 Kings 1:4 says of David’s comforter Abishag, “And the damsel was very fair” — יָפָה עַד-מְאֹד, yafah ad me'od — which the Midrash interpreted to mean that she attained to Eve's beauty (as עַד-מְאֹד, ad me'od, implies אָדָם, Adam, and thus Eve). And Genesis 12:14 says, “the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair” — מְאֹד, me'od — which the Midrash interpreted to mean that Sarai was even more beautiful than Eve. Reading the words, “And the princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh,” in Genesis 12:15, Rabbi Johanan told that they tried to outbid each other for the right to enter Pharaoh's palace with Sarai. One prince said that he would give a hundred dinars for the right to enter the palace with Sarai, whereupon another bid two hundred dinars.[104]

Rabbi Helbo deduced from Genesis 12:16 that a man must always observe the honor due to his wife, because blessings rest on a man’s home only on account of her.[105]

Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani said in the name of Rabbi Johanan that leprosy resulted from seven things: slander, bloodshed, vain oath, incest, arrogance, robbery, and envy. The Gemara cited God’s striking Pharaoh with plagues in Genesis 12:17 to show that incest had led to leprosy.[106]

Lot and Abram (mosaic circa 432–440 in the nave of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome)
The Oak of Hebron (illustration from the 1865 The Land of Israel, a Journal of Travels in Palestine by H.B. Tristram)

Genesis chapter 13[edit]

A Baraita deduced from the words, “like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt,” in Genesis 13:10 that among all the nations, there was none more fertile than Egypt. And the Baraita taught that there was no more fertile spot in Egypt than Zoan, where kings lived, for Isaiah 30:4 says of Pharaoh, “his princes are at Zoan.” And in all of Israel, there was no more rocky ground than that at Hebron, which is why the Patriarchs buried their dead there, as reported in Genesis 49:31. But rocky Hebron was still seven times as fertile as lush Zoan, as the Baraita interpreted the words “and Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt” in Numbers 13:22 to mean that Hebron was seven times as fertile as Zoan. The Baraita rejected the plain meaning of “built,” reasoning that Ham would not build a house for his younger son Canaan (in whose land was Hebron) before he built one for his elder son Mizraim (in whose land was Zoan, and Genesis 10:6 lists (presumably in order of birth) “the sons of Ham: Cush, and Mizraim, and Put, and Canaan.”[107]

Rabbi Issi taught that there was no city in the plain better than Sodom, for Lot had searched through all the cities of the plain and found none like Sodom. Thus the people of Sodom were the best of all, yet as Genesis 13:13 reports, “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners.” They were “wicked” to each other, “sinners” in adultery, “against the Lord” in idolatry, and “exceedingly” engaged in bloodshed.[108]

The Mishnah deduced from Genesis 13:13 that the men of Sodom would have no place in the world to come.[109]

Abraham Makes the Enemies Flee Who Hold His Nephew (1613 etching by Antonio Tempesta at the National Gallery of Art)
Abram Rescues Lot, the Women, and Goods (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Genesis chapter 14[edit]

Rabbi Levi, or some say Rabbi Jonathan, said that a tradition handed down from the Men of the Great Assembly taught that wherever the Bible employs the term “and it was” or “and it came to pass” (וַיְהִי, wa-yehi), as it does in Genesis 14:1, it indicates misfortune, as one can read wa-yehi as wai, hi, “woe, sorrow.” Thus the words, “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel,” in Genesis 14:1, are followed by the words, “they made war,” in Genesis 14:2. And the Gemara also cited the instances of Genesis 6:1 followed by Genesis 6:5; Genesis 11:2 followed by Genesis 11:4; Joshua 5:13 followed by the rest of Joshua 5:13; Joshua 6:27 followed by Joshua 7:1; 1 Samuel 1:1 followed by 1 Samuel 1:5; 1 Samuel 8:1 followed by 1 Samuel 8:3; 1 Samuel 18:14 close after 1 Samuel 18:9; 2 Samuel 7:1 followed by 1 Kings 8:19; Ruth 1:1 followed by the rest of Ruth 1:1; and Esther 1:1 followed by Haman. But the Gemara also cited as counterexamples the words, “And there was evening and there was morning one day,” in Genesis 1:5, as well as Genesis 29:10, and 1 Kings 6:1. So Rav Ashi replied that wa-yehi sometimes presages misfortune, and sometimes it does not, but the expression “and it came to pass in the days of” always presages misfortune. And for that proposition, the Gemara cited Genesis 14:1, Isaiah 7:1 Jeremiah 1:3, Ruth 1:1, and Esther 1:1.[110]

Lot and His Family Recalled Home by Abraham (1613 etching by Antonio Tempesta at the National Gallery of Art)

Rav and Samuel equated the Amraphel of Genesis 14:1 with the Nimrod whom Genesis 10:8 describes as “a mighty warrior on the earth,” but the two differed over which was his real name. One held that his name was actually Nimrod, and Genesis 14:1 calls him Amraphel because he ordered Abram to be cast into a burning furnace (and thus the name Amraphel reflects the words for “he said” (amar) and “he cast” (hipil)). But the other held that his name was actually Amraphel, and Genesis 10:8 calls him Nimrod because he led the world in rebellion against God (and thus the name Nimrod reflects the word for “he led in rebellion” (himrid)).[111]

Rabbi Berekiah and Rabbi Helbo taught in the name of Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman that the Valley of Siddim (mentioned in Genesis 14:3 in connection with the battle between the four kings and the five kings) was called the Valley of Shaveh (which means "as one") because there all the peoples of the world agreed as one, felled cedars, erected a large dais for Abraham, set him on top, and praised him, saying (in the words of Genesis 23:6, "Hear us, my lord: You are a prince of God among us." They told Abraham that he was king over them and a god to them. But Abraham replied that the world did not lack its King, and the world did not lack its God.[112]

A Midrash taught that there was not a mighty man in the world more difficult to overcome than Og, as Deuteronomy 3:11 says, “only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim.” The Midrash told that Og had been the only survivor of the strong men whom Amraphel and his colleagues had slain, as may be inferred from Genesis 14:5, which reports that Amraphel “smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim,” and one may read Deuteronomy 3:1 to indicate that Og lived near Ashteroth. The Midrash taught that Og was the refuse among the Rephaim, like a hard olive that escapes being mashed in the olive press. The Midrash inferred this from Genesis 14:13, which reports that “there came one who had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew,” and the Midrash identified the man who had escaped as Og, as Deuteronomy 3:11 describes him as a remnant, saying, “only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim.” The Midrash taught that Og intended that Abram should go out and be killed. God rewarded Og for delivering the message by allowing him to live all the years from Abraham to Moses, but God collected Og’s debt to God for his evil intention toward Abraham by causing Og to fall by the hand of Abraham’s descendants. On coming to make war with Og, Moses was afraid, thinking that he was only 120 years old, while Og was more than 500 years old, and if Og had not possessed some merit, he would not have lived all those years. So God told Moses (in the words of Numbers 21:34), “fear him not; for I have delivered him into your land,” implying that Moses should slay Og with his own hand.[113]

Abraham and Melchizedek (1493 woodcut from the Nuremberg Chronicle)
Abram and Melchizedek (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)

Rabbi Abbahu said in Rabbi Eleazar’s name that “his trained men” in Genesis 14:14 meant Torah scholars, and thus when Abram made them fight to rescue Lot, he brought punishment on himself and his children, who were consequently enslaved in Egyptian for 210 years. But Samuel said that Abram was punished because he questioned whether God would keep God’s promise, when in Genesis 15:8 Abram asked God “how shall I know that I shall inherit it?” And Rabbi Johanan said that Abram was punished because he prevented people from entering beneath the wings of the Shekhinah and being saved, when in Genesis 14:21 the king of Sodom said it to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods yourself,” and Abram consented to leave the prisoners with the king of Sodom.[114]

Rav interpreted the words “And he armed his trained servants, born in his own house” in Genesis 14:14 to mean that Abram equipped them by teaching them the Torah. Samuel read the word vayarek (“he armed”) to mean “bright,” and thus interpreted the words “And he armed his trained servants” in Genesis 14:14 to mean that Abram made them bright with gold, that is, rewarded them for accompanying him.[114]

Melchisedec King of Salem blesses Abram (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Reading the report in Genesis 14:14 that Abram led 318 men, Rabbi Ammi bar Abba said that Abram’s servant Eliezer outweighed them all. The Gemara reported that others (employing gematria) said that Eliezer alone accompanied Abram to rescue Lot, as the Hebrew letters in Eliezer’s name have a numerical value of 318.[114]

Melchisedek Is Holding Up His Hands and Blessing Abraham (illustration from the 1897 Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us by Charles Foster)

Midrash identified the Melchizedek of Genesis 14:18 with Noah’s son Shem.[115] The Rabbis taught that Melchizedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam’s robes to Abraham.[116] Rabbi Zechariah said on Rabbi Ishmael’s authority (or others say, it was taught at the school of Rabbi Ishmael) that God intended to continue the priesthood from Shem’s descendants, as Genesis 14:18 says, “And he (Melchizedek/Shem) was the priest of the most high God.” But then Melchizedek gave precedence in his blessing to Abram over God, and thus God decided to bring forth the priesthood from Abram. As Genesis 14:19 reports, “And he (Melchizedek/Shem) blessed him (Abram), and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God the Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’” Abram replied to Melchizedek/Shem by questioning whether the blessing of a servant should be given precedence over that of the master. And straightaway, God gave the priesthood to Abram, as Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord (God) said to my Lord (Abram), Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,” which is followed in Psalm 110:4 by, “The Lord has sworn, and will not repent, ‘You (Abram) are a priest for ever, after the order (dibrati) of Melchizedek,’” meaning, “because of the word (dibbur) of Melchizedek.” Hence Genesis 14:18 says, “And he (Melchizedek/Shem) was the priest of the most high God,” implying that Melchizedek/Shem was a priest, but not his descendants.[117]

Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised.[118] A Midrash taught that Melchizedek called Jerusalem “Salem.”[119] The Rabbis said that Melchizedek instructed Abraham in the Torah.[118] Rabbi Eleazar said that Melchizedek’s school was one of three places where the Holy Spirit manifested itself.[120]

Rabbi Judah said in Rabbi Nehorai's name that Melchizedek’s blessing yielded prosperity for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[121] Ephraim Miksha'ah the disciple of Rabbi Meir said in the latter's name that Tamar descended from Melchizedek.[122]

Rabbi Hana bar Bizna citing Rabbi Simeon Hasida (or others say Rabbi Berekiah in the name of Rabbi Isaac) identified Melchizedek as one of the four craftsmen of whom Zechariah wrote in Zechariah 2:3.[123] The Gemara taught that David wrote the Book of Psalms, including in it the work of the elders, including Melchizedek in Psalm 110.[124]

Abram Guarding His Sacrifice (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)
A Deep Sleep Fell Upon Abram and a Horror Seized Him (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Genesis chapter 15[edit]

The Gemara expounded on the words, “And He brought him outside,” in Genesis 15:5. The Gemara taught that Abram had told God that Abram had employed astrology to see his destiny and had seen that he was not fated to have children. God replied that Abram should go “outside” of his astrological thinking, for the stars do not determine Israel’s fate.[114]

The Pesikta de-Rav Kahana taught that Sarah was one of seven barren women about whom Psalm 113:9 says (speaking of God), “He . . . makes the barren woman to dwell in her house as a joyful mother of children.” The Pesikta de-Rav Kahana also listed Rebekah Rachel, Leah, Manoah’s wife, Hannah, and Zion. The Pesikta de-Rav Kahana taught that the words of Psalm 113:9, “He . . . makes the barren woman to dwell in her house,” apply, to begin with, to Sarah, for Genesis 11:30 reports that “Sarai was barren.” And the words of Psalm 113:9, “a joyful mother of children,” apply to Sarah, as well, for Genesis 21:7 also reports that “Sarah gave children suck.”[125]

The Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael taught that Abraham inherited both this world and the World to Come as a reward for his faith, as Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed in the Lord.”[126]

Resh Lakish taught that Providence punishes bodily those who unjustifiably suspect the innocent. In Exodus 4:1, Moses said that the Israelites “will not believe me,” but God knew that the Israelites would believe. God thus told Moses that the Israelites were believers and descendants of believers, while Moses would ultimately disbelieve. The Gemara explained that Exodus 4:13 reports that “the people believed” and Genesis 15:6 reports that the Israelites’ ancestor Abram “believed in the Lord,” while Numbers 20:12 reports that Moses “did not believe.” Thus, Moses was smitten when in Exodus 4:6 God turned his hand white as snow.[127]

Rabbi Jacob bar Aha said in the name of Rav Assi that Abraham asked God whether God would wipe out Abraham’s descendants as God had destroyed the generation of the Flood. Rabbi Jacob bar Aha said in the name of Rav Assi that Abraham’s question in Genesis 15:8, “O Lord God, how shall I know that I shall inherit it?” was part of a larger dialogue. Abraham asked God if Abraham’s descendants should sin before God, would God do to them as God did to the generation of the Flood (in Genesis 6–8) and the generation of the Dispersion (in Genesis in Genesis 11:1–9). God told Abraham that God would not. Abraham then asked God (as reported in Genesis 15:8), “Let me know how I shall inherit it.” God answered by instructing Abraham (as reported in Genesis 15:9), “Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old” (which Abraham was to sacrifice to God). Abraham acknowledged to God that this means of atonement through sacrifice would hold good while a sacrificial shrine remained in being, but Abraham pressed God what would become of his descendants when the Temple would no longer exist. God replied that God had already long ago provided for Abraham’s descendants in the Torah the order of the sacrifices, and whenever they read it, God would deem it as if they had offered them before God, and God would grant them pardon for all their iniquities. Rabbi Jacob bar Aha said in the name of Rav Assi that this demonstrated that were it not for the מעמדות, Ma'amadot, groups of lay Israelites who participated in worship as representatives of the public, then heaven and earth could not endure.[128]

A Midrash noted the difference in wording between Genesis 47:27, which says of the Israelites in Goshen that “they got possessions therein,” and Leviticus 14:34, which says of the Israelites in Canaan, “When you come into the land of Canaan, which I gave you for a possession.” The Midrash read Genesis 47:27 to read, “and they were taken in possession by it.” The Midrash thus taught that in the case of Goshen, the land seized the Israelites, so that their bond might be exacted and so as to bring about God's declaration to Abraham in Genesis 15:13 that the Egyptians would afflict the Israelites for 400 years. But the Midrash read Leviticus 14:34 to teach the Israelites that if they were worthy, the Land of Israel would be an eternal possession, but if not, they would be banished from it.[129]

The Mishnah pointed to God’s announcement to Abram in Genesis 15:16 that his descendants would return from Egyptian slavery to support the proposition that the merits of the father bring about benefits for future generations.[130]

A Midrash taught that Genesis 15:18, Deuteronomy 1:7, and Joshua 1:4 call the Euphrates “the Great River” because it encompasses the Land of Israel. The Midrash noted that at the creation of the world, the Euphrates was not designated “great.” But it is called “great” because it encompasses the Land of Israel, which Deuteronomy 4:7 calls a “great nation.” As a popular saying said, the king’s servant is a king, and thus Scripture calls the Euphrates great because of its association with the great nation of Israel.[131]

Abram Receiving Hagar (18th century French etching)
Sarai Sends Hagar Away (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Genesis chapter 16[edit]

Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai deduced from the words, “and she had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar,” in Genesis 16:1 that Hagar was Pharaoh’s daughter. Rabbi Simeon taught that when Pharaoh saw what God did on Sarah’s behalf, Pharaoh gave his daughter to Sarai, reasoning that it would be better for his daughter to be a handmaid in Sarai’s house than a mistress in another house. Rabbi Simeon read the name “Hagar” in to mean “reward” (agar), imagining Pharaoh to say, “Here is your reward (agar).”[132]

A Midrash deduced from Sarai’s words in Genesis 16:2, “Behold now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing; go into my handmaid; it may be that I shall be built up through her,” that one who is childless is as one who is demolished. The Rabbi of the Midrash reasoned that only that which is demolished must be “built up.”[133]

A Midrash found in Genesis 16:8 support for the proverb that if a person tells you that you have a donkey’s ears, do not believe it, but if two tell it to you, order a halter. For Abraham called Hagar Sarai’s servant the first time in Genesis 16:6, saying, “Behold, your maid is in your hand.” And then the angel called Hagar Sarai’s servant the second time in Genesis 16:8, saying, “Hagar, Sarai’s handmaid.” Thus, thereafter in Genesis 16:8, Hagar acknowledged that she was Sarai’s servant, saying, “I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.”[134] Similarly, Rava asked Rabbah bar Mari where Scripture supports the saying of the Rabbis that if your neighbor (justifiably) calls you a donkey, you should put a saddle on your back (and not quarrel to convince the neighbor otherwise). Rabbah bar Mari replied that the saying found support in Genesis 16:8, where first the angel calls Hagar “Sarai's handmaid,” and then Hagar acknowledged that she was Sarai’s servant, saying, “I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.”[135]

Landscape with Hagar and the Angel (1646 painting by Claude Lorrain)

Noting that the words “and an angel of the Lord said to her” occur three times in Genesis 16:9–11, a Midrash asked how many angels visited Hagar. Rabbi Hama bar Rabbi Hanina said that five angels visited her, for each time the text mentions “speech,” it refers to an angel. The Rabbis said that four angels visited her, as the word “angel” occurs 4 times. Rabbi Hiyya taugh that Hagar’s encounter with the angels showed how great the difference was between the generations of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and later generations. Rabbi Hiyya noted that after Judges 13:13 reports that Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson, saw an angel, Manoah exclaimed to his wife in fear (in Judges 13:22), “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.” Yet Hagar, a bondmaid, saw five angels and was not afraid. Rabbi Aha taught that a fingernail of the Patriarchs was more valuable than the abdomen of their descendants. Rabbi Isaac interpreted Proverbs 31:27, “She sees the ways of her household,” to apply homiletically to teach that all who lived in Abraham’s household were seers, so Hagar was accustomed to seeing angels.[134]

Rabbi Simeon wept when he thought that Hagar, the handmaid of Rabbi Simeon’s ancestor Sarah, was found worthy of meeting an angel three times (including in Genesis 16:9–11), while Rabbi Simeon did not meet an angel even once.[136]

A Midrash counted Genesis 16:11, in which the angel told Hagar, “Behold, you are with child . . . and you shall call his name Ishmael,” among four instances in which Scripture identifies a person’s name before birth. Rabbi Isaac also counted the cases of Isaac (in Genesis 17:19), Solomon (in 1 Chronicles 22:9), and Josiah (in 1 Kings 13:2).[137]

The Gemara taught that if one sees Ishmael in a dream, then God hears that person’s prayer (perhaps because the name “Ishmael” derives from “the Lord has heard” in Genesis 16:11, or perhaps because “God heard” (yishmah Elohim, יִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים) Ishmael’s voice in Genesis 21:17).[138]

Genesis chapter 17[edit]

Rabbi Judah contrasted God’s words to Abraham, "walk before Me," in Genesis 17:1 with the words, "Noah walked with God," in Genesis 6:9. Rabbi Judah compared it to a king who had two sons, one grown up and the other a child. The king asked the child to walk with him. But the king asked the adult to walk before him. Similarly, to Abraham, whose moral strength was great, God said, "Walk before Me." But of Noah, who was feeble, Genesis 6:9 says, "Noah walked with God." Rabbi Nehemiah compared Noah to a king’s friend who was plunging about in dark alleys, and when the king saw him sinking in the mud, the king urged his friend to walk with him instead of plunging about. Abraham’s case, however, was compared to that of a king who was sinking in dark alleys, and when his friend saw him, the friend shined a light for him through the window. The king then asked his friend to come and shine a light before the king on his way. Thus, God told Abraham that instead of showing a light for God from Mesopotamia, he should come and show one before God in the Land of Israel. Similarly, Genesis 48:15 says, “And he blessed Joseph, and said: The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk . . . .” Rabbi Berekiah in Rabbi Johanan’s name and Resh Lakish gave two illustrations of this. Rabbi Johanan said: It was as if a shepherd stood and watched his flocks. (Similarly, Abraham and Isaac walked before God and under Gods protection.) Resh Lakish said: It was as if a prince walked along while the elders preceded him (as an escort, to make known his coming). (Similarly, Abraham and Isaac walked before God, spreading word of God.) The Midrash taught that in Rabbi Johanan’s view: We need God’s proximity, while in Resh Lakish’s view, God needs us to glorify God (by propagating the knowledge of God’s greatness).[139] Similarly, a Midrash read the words “Noah walked with God” in Genesis 6:9 to mean that God supported Noah, so that Noah should not be overwhelmed by the evil behavior of the generation of the Flood. The Midrash compared this to a king whose son went on a mission for his father. The road ahead of him was sunken in mire, and the king supported him so that he would not sink in the mire. However, in the case of Abraham, God said in Genesis 17:1, “walk before Me,” and regarding the Patriarchs, Jacob said in Genesis 48:15, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked.” For the Patriarchs would try to anticipate the Divine Presence, and would go ahead to do God’s will.[140]

Abraham Took Ishmael with All the Males Born in His House and Circumcised Them (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Rabbi taught that notwithstanding all the precepts that Abram fulfilled, God did not call him “perfect” until he circumcised himself, for in Genesis 17:1–2, God told Abram, “Walk before me and be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and you,” and in Genesis 17:10, God explained that God’s covenant required that every male be circumcised.[141]

Rav Judah said in Rav’s name that when God told Abram in Genesis 17:1, “Walk before me and be perfect,” Abram was seized with trembling, thinking that perhaps there was some shameful flaw in him that needed correcting. But when God added in Genesis 17:2, “And I will make My covenant between me and you,” God set Abram’s mind at ease.[114]

Rabbi Hoshaiah taught that if one perfects oneself, then good fortune will follow, for Genesis 17:1 says, “Walk before me and be perfect,” and shortly thereafter Genesis 17:4 reports Abram’s reward for doing so: “And you shall be a father of many nations.”[114]

God Renews His Promises to Abraham (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

Rabbi Ammi bar Abba employed gematria to interpret the meaning of Abram’s name change in Genesis 17:5 from Abram (אַבְרָם) to Abraham (אַבְרָהָם). According to Rabbi Ammi bar Abba, at first God gave Abram mastery over 243 of his body parts, as the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in Abram is 243. Then God gave Abraham mastery over 248 of his body parts, adding five body parts, as the numerical value of the Hebrew letter hei (ה) that God added to his name is five. The Gemara explained that as a reward for Abraham’s undergoing circumcision, God granted Abraham control over his two eyes, his two ears, and the organ that he circumcised.[142]

The Mishnah notes that transgressing the command of circumcision in Genesis 17:14 is one of 36 transgressions that cause the transgressor to be cut off from his people.[143]

The Gemara read the command of Genesis 17:14 to require an uncircumcised adult man to become circumcised, and the Gemara read the command of Leviticus 12:3 to require the father to circumcise his infant child.[144]

Rav Zeira counted five kinds of orlah (things uncircumcised) in the world: (1) uncircumcised ears (as in 6:10), (2) uncircumcised lips (as in Exodus 6:12), (3) uncircumcised hearts (as in Deuteronomy 10:16 and Jeremiah 9:26), (4) uncircumcised flesh (as in Genesis 17:14), and (5) uncircumcised trees (as in Leviticus 19:23). Rav Zeira taught that all the nations are uncircumcised in each of the first four ways, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart, in that their hearts do not allow them to do God’s will. And Rav Zeira taught that in the future, God will take away from Israel the uncircumcision of their hearts, and they will not harden their stubborn hearts anymore before their Creator, as Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh,” and Genesis 17:11 says, “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin.”[145]

Rabbi Hama son of Rabbi Hanina taught that visiting those who have had medical procedures (as Abraham had in Genesis 17:26) demonstrates one of God’s attributes that humans should emulate. Rabbi Hama son of Rabbi Hanina asked what Deuteronomy 13:5 means in the text, “You shall walk after the Lord your God.” How can a human being walk after God, when Deuteronomy 4:24 says, “[T]he Lord your God is a devouring fire”? Rabbi Hama son of Rabbi Hanina explained that the command to walk after God means to walk after the attributes of God. As God clothes the naked — for Genesis 3:21 says, “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skin, and clothed them” — so should we also clothe the naked. God visited the sick — for Genesis 18:1 says, “And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre” (after Abraham was circumcised in Genesis 17:26) — so should we also visit the sick. God comforted mourners — for Genesis 25:11 says, “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed Isaac his son” — so should we also comfort mourners. God buried the dead — for Deuteronomy 34:6 says, “And He buried him in the valley” — so should we also bury the dead.[146] Similarly, the Sifre on Deuteronomy 11:22 taught that to walk in God’s ways means to be (in the words of Exodus 34:6) “merciful and gracious.”[147]

In medieval rabbinic interpretation[edit]

The parashah is discussed in these medieval rabbinic sources:

Genesis chapters 11–22[edit]

In their commentaries to Mishnah Avot 5:3[73] (see “In classical rabbinic interpretation” above), Rashi and Maimonides differed on what 10 trials Abraham faced:[148]

Rashi Maimonides
1 Abraham hid underground for 13 years from King Nimrod, who wanted to kill him.
2 Nimrod threw Abraham into a fiery furnace.
3 God commanded Abraham to leave his family and homeland. 1 Abraham’s exile from his family and homeland
4 As soon as he arrived in the Promised Land, Abraham was forced to leave to escape a famine. 2 The famine in the Promised Land after God assured Abraham that he would become a great nation there
5 Pharaoh’s officials kidnapped Sarah. 3 The corruption in Egypt that resulted in the kidnapping of Sarah
6 Kings captured Lot, and Abraham had to rescue him. 4 The war with the four kings
7 God told Abraham that his descendants would suffer under four regimes.
5 Abraham’s marriage to Hagar after having despaired that Sarah would ever give birth
8 God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his son when Abraham was 99 years old. 6 The commandment of circumcision
7 Abimelech’s abduction of Sarah
9 Abraham was commanded to drive away Ishmael and Hagar. 8 Driving away Hagar after she had given birth
9 The very distasteful command to drive away Ishmael
10 God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. 10 The binding of Isaac on the altar
Maimonides

Genesis chapter 13[edit]

In his letter to Obadiah the proselyte, Maimonides relied on Genesis 13:17 to addressed whether a convert could recite declarations like “God of our fathers.” Maimonides wrote that converts may say such declarations in the prescribed order and not change them in the least, and may bless and pray in the same way as every Jew by birth. Maimonides reasoned that Abraham taught the people, brought many under the wings of the Divine Presence, and ordered members of his household after him to keep God’s ways forever. As God said of Abraham in Genesis 18:19, “I have known him to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice.” Ever since then, Maimonides taught, whoever adopts Judaism is counted among the disciples of Abraham. They are Abraham’s household, and Abraham converted them to righteousness. In the same way that Abraham converted his contemporaries, he converts future generations through the testament that he left behind him. Thus Abraham is the father of his posterity who keep his ways and of all proselytes who adopt Judaism. Therefore, Maimonides counseled converts to pray, “God of our fathers,” because Abraham is their father. They should pray, “You who have taken for his own our fathers,” for God gave the land to Abraham when in Genesis 13:17, God said, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give to you.” Maimonides concluded that there is no difference between converts and born Jews. Both should say the blessing, “Who has chosen us,” “Who has given us,” “Who have taken us for Your own,” and “Who has separated us”; for God has chosen converts and separated them from the nations and given them the Torah. For the Torah has been given to born Jews and proselytes alike, as Numbers 15:15 says, “One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourns with you, an ordinance forever in your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord.” Maimonides counseled converts not to consider their origin as inferior. While born Jews descend from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, converts derive from God, through whose word the world was created. As Isaiah said in Isaiah 44:5: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.”[149]

Genesis chapter 15[edit]

Reading Genesis 15:12, “and a great, dark dread fell over him (Abraham),” Maimonides taught that when prophets prophesied, their limbs trembled, their physical powers became weak, they lost control of their senses, and thus their minds became free to comprehend what they saw.[150]

In modern interpretation[edit]

Cassuto

Genesis chapters 12–22[edit]

The mid-20th-century Italian-Israeli scholar Umberto Cassuto, formery of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, identified the following chiastic structure in Abraham’s 10 trials in Genesis 12–22:[151]

A: “Go from your country . . .”; leave his father; blessings and promises (Genesis 12:1–7)
B: Sarai is in danger from Pharaoh; a sanctuary is founded at Bethel and the name of the Lord is proclaimed (Genesis 12:10–13:4)
C: Lot goes away (Genesis 13:5–18)
D: Lot is in jeopardy and is saved (Genesis 14–15)
E: Threat to the birth of the first-born; birth of Ishmael; covenant to be fulfilled through second son (Genesis 16–17)
E1: Covenant of circumcision; birth of Isaac foretold (Genesis 17–18:15)
D1: Lot is in jeopardy and is saved (Genesis 18:17–19:28)
C1: Sarah is in danger from Abimelech (Genesis 20:1–21:7)
B1: Hagar and Ishmael go away; a sanctuary is founded at Beersheba and the name of the Lord is proclaimed (Genesis 21:8–34)
A1: Go to the land of Moriah; bid farewell to his son; blessings and promises (Genesis 22)

Commandments[edit]

According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there is one positive commandment in the parashah:[152]

  • The precept of circumcision.[153]
Shlomo Ganzfried, editor of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch cites the words of Genesis 15:1, “Fear not, Abram” (אַל-תִּירָא אַבְרָם, al-tirah Avram), as an example of a verse where a missing letter י, yud, would cause one to have to take out another Torah scroll to read, as it would be a serious error in the scroll.[154]

And the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch interprets God’s words to Abraham in Genesis 17:5, “the father of a multitude of nations have I made you,” to mean that previously, Abram was father only to Aram, but from that point onward, he would be a father to all nations. Thus, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch cites Genesis 17:5 to support the proposition that a convert may be included in a group of three or more (mezuman) for the purposes of the blessing after meals (ברכת המזון, Birkat Hamazon) and may say the blessing and the words of the blessing, “for giving our ancestors as a heritage.”[155]

In the liturgy[edit]

Some Jews refer to the ten trials of Abraham in Genesis 12–25 as they study chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot on a Sabbath between Passover and Rosh Hashanah.[156]

Jews refer to God’s selection of Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3, God’s covenant with Abraham to give his descendants the Land in Genesis 12:7, 15:18–21, and 17:7–8, and God’s changing of Abram’s name to Abraham in Genesis 17:4–5 as they recite Nehemiah 9:6–11 as part of the Pesukei D’Zimrah prayers during the daily morning (שַחֲרִת, Shacharit) prayer service.[157]

A page from a 14th-century German Haggadah

The Passover Haggadah, in the concluding nirtzah section of the Seder, in a reference to Genesis 14:15, recounts how God granted victory to the righteous convert Abram at the middle of the night.[158]

The name “Elyon” or “God Most High,” which Melchizedek used in Genesis 14:19, is used in Psalm 92:2 to refer to God, and Psalm 92 is in turn recited after the Lekhah Dodi liturgical poem of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service.[159]

A page from the Kaufmann Haggadah

The Amidah draws on God’s words in Genesis 15:1, “Fear not, Abram, I am a shield to you,” to refer to God as “Shield of Abraham.”[160] In the hymn Adon Olam (“Lord of the World”), use of the title “Adon” recalls the merit of Abraham, who first addressed God with the title in Genesis 15:2.[161]

The Haggadah, in the magid section of the Seder, quotes Genesis 15:13–14 to demonstrate that God keeps God’s promises.[162] Thereafter, the Haggadah reports that Israel “went down to Egypt — forced to do so by the word [of God],” and many commentators think that this statement refers to God’s foretelling in Genesis 15:13 that Abram’s descendants would “be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them.”[163] And in the concluding nirtzah section, in a reference to God’s promises to Abram in the Covenant Between the Pieces in Genesis 15:13–21, the Haggadah reports that God “disclosed to the one from the Orient at midnight on Passover.”[164]

Following the Kabbalat Shabbat service and prior to the Friday evening (Ma'ariv) service, Jews traditionally read rabbinic sources on the observance of the Sabbath, including Mishnah Shabbat 18:3. Mishnah Shabbat 18:3, in turn, makes clear the precedence of the law of circumcision in Genesis 17:12 over even the observance of the Sabbath.[165]

The Weekly Maqam[edit]

In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parashah. For Parashah Lech Lecha, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Saba, the maqam that symbolizes a covenant (berit), as in this parashah, Abraham and his sons undergo circumcisions, a ritual that signifies a covenant between man and God.[166]

Isaiah (1509 fresco by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel)

Haftarah[edit]

The haftarah for the parashah is:

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

The parashah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:

Esarhaddon

Ancient[edit]

Biblical[edit]

Early nonrabbinic[edit]

Philo
Josephus

Classical rabbinic[edit]

  • Mishnah: Nedarim 3:11; Sotah 7:5; Sanhedrin 10:3; Eduyot 2:9; Avot 5:3; Keritot 1:1. Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 412, 458, 605, 645–46, 685, 836. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Berakhot 1:12–13; Orlah 1:1–8; Shabbat 7:24, 15:9; Yevamot 8:5; Nedarim 2:5; Sotah 5:12; Sanhedrin 13:8; Eduyot 1:14. Land of Israel, circa 300 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 7, 341–43, 381, 415, 712, 789, 853, 1190, 1250. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 17a–b; Sheviit 43b; Challah 17a; Bikkurim 5b; Shabbat 106b–07a; Taanit 8b; Megillah 15b; Chagigah 2b; Sanhedrin 17b. Land of Israel, circa 400 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, volumes 1, 6b, 11–12, 15, 25–27. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005–2014.
  • Genesis Rabbah 39:1–47:10. Land of Israel, 5th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, pages 313–405. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
Talmud
Rashi

Medieval[edit]

  • Rashi. Commentary. Genesis 12–17. Troyes, France, late 11th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, volume 1, pages 115–72. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89906-026-9.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:14, 16, 34, 44, 80; 3:7; 4:17. Toledo, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Introduction by Henry Slonimsky, pages 90, 92, 108, 110, 132, 142, 223. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
  • Abraham ibn Ezra. Commentary on the Torah. Mid-12th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Pentateuch: Genesis (Bereshit). Translated and annotated by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur M. Silver, pages 149–88. New York: Menorah Publishing Company, 1988. ISBN 0-932232-07-8.
Maimonides
Nachmanides
  • Hezekiah ben Manoah. Hizkuni. France, circa 1240. Reprinted in, e.g., Chizkiyahu ben Manoach. Chizkuni: Torah Commentary. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 1, pages 103–30. Jerusalem: Ktav Publishers, 2013. ISBN 1602-802-612.
  • Nachmanides. Commentary on the Torah. Jerusalem, circa 1270. Reprinted in, e.g., Ramban (Nachmanides): Commentary on the Torah: Genesis. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, volume 1, pages 164–225. New York: Shilo Publishing House, 1971. ISBN 0-88328-006X.
The Zohar
  • Zohar, part 1, pages 76b–96b. Spain, late 13th century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling, Maurice Simon, and Paul P. Levertoff. 5 volumes. London: Soncino Press, 1934.
  • Bahya ben Asher. Commentary on the Torah. Spain, early 14th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbeinu Bachya: Torah Commentary by Rabbi Bachya ben Asher. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 1, pages 216–75. Jerusalem: Lambda Publishers, 2003. ISBN 965-7108-45-4.
  • Isaac ben Moses Arama. Akedat Yizhak (The Binding of Isaac). Late 15th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Yitzchak Arama. Akeydat Yitzchak: Commentary of Rabbi Yitzchak Arama on the Torah. Translated and condensed by Eliyahu Munk, volume 1, pages 92–125. New York, Lambda Publishers, 2001. ISBN 965-7108-30-6.

Modern[edit]

  • Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno. Commentary on the Torah. Venice, 1567. Reprinted in, e.g., Sforno: Commentary on the Torah. Translation and explanatory notes by Raphael Pelcovitz, pages 62–85. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-89906-268-7.
  • Moshe Alshich. Commentary on the Torah. Safed, circa 1593. Reprinted in, e.g., Moshe Alshich. Midrash of Rabbi Moshe Alshich on the Torah. Translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk, volume 1, pages 91–115. New York, Lambda Publishers, 2000. ISBN 965-7108-13-6.
Hobbes
Mendelson
Luzzatto
Kook
  • Abraham Isaac Kook. The Moral Principles. Early 20th century. Reprinted in Abraham Isaac Kook: the Lights of Penitence, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems. Translated by Ben Zion Bokser, page 182. Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2159-X.
  • Irving Fineman. Jacob, An Autobiograhical Novel, pages 11, 17. New York: Random House, 1941.
Mann
  • Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, pages 4–11, 36, 43, 52–54, 59, 78, 89–91, 93, 95–98, 100–02, 125, 141, 148, 153–54, 177, 256–57, 309–10, 339–55, 385, 425, 492, 523, 555, 593–94, 596, 671, 763, 778–79, 781, 788, 806, 859. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
  • Zofia Kossak. The Covenant: A Novel of the Life of Abraham the Prophet. New York: Roy, 1951.
  • Michael C. Astour. “Political and Cosmic Symbolism in Genesis 14 and Its Babylonian Sources.” In Biblical Motifs: Origins and Transformations. Edited by Alexander Altmann, pages 65–112. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University, 1966. ISBN 0674069757.
Schwartz
Buber
  • Martin Buber. On the Bible: Eighteen studies, pages 22–43. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
  • Jacob Weingreen. “הוֹצֵאתִיךָ in Genesis 15:7.” In Words and Meanings: Essays Presented to David Winton Thomas. Edited by Peter R. Ackroyd and Barnabas Lindars, pages 209–15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968. ISBN 0-521-07270-0.
  • John A. Emerton. “Some False Clues in the Study of Genesis XIV.” Vetus Testamentum, volume 21 (number 1) (1971): pages 24–27.
  • John A. Emerton. “The Riddle of Genesis XIV.” Vetus Testamentum, volume 21 (number 4) (1971): pages 403–39.
  • Mario Brelich. The Holy Embrace. Translated by John Shepley. Marlboro, Vermont: Marlboro Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56897-002-1. Originally published as Il Sacro Amplesso. Milan: Adelphi Edizioni s.p.a., 1972.
  • Terrence Malick. Days of Heaven. 1978.
  • Niels-Erik A. Andreasen. “Genesis 14 in its Near Eastern Context.” In Scripture in Context: Essays on the Comparative Method. Edited by Carl D. Evans, William W. Hallo, and John B. White, pages 59–77. Pittsburgh: Pickwick Press, 1980. ISBN 0915138433.
  • Thijs Booij. “Hagar’s Words in Genesis XVI 13B.” Vetus Testamentum, volume 30 (1980): pages 1–7.
  • Mitchell J. Dahood. “Nomen-Omen in Gen 16,11.” Biblica, volume 61 (number 1) (1980): page 69.
Steinsaltz
  • George W. Coats. “The Curse in God’s Blessing: Genesis 12:1–4a in the Structure and Theology of the Yahwist.” In Die Botschaft und die Boten: Festschrift fur Hans Walter Wolff zum 70. Geburtstag. Edited by Jörg Jeremias and L. Perlitt, pages 31–41. Neukirchen–Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1981. ISBN 3788706759.
  • Moshé Anbar. “Genesis 15: A Conflation of Two Deuteronomic Narratives.” Journal of Biblical Literature, volume 101 (1982): pages 39–55.
  • Adin Steinsaltz. Biblical Files, pages 12–29. New York: Basic Books, 1984. ISBN 0-465-00670-1.
  • Phyllis Trible. “Hagar: The Desolation of Rejection.” In Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives, pages 9–35. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8006-1537-9.
Atwood
Card
Bly
Plaut
Herzfeld

External links[edit]

Texts[edit]

Commentaries[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Bereshit Torah Stats". Akhlah Inc. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Parashat Lech-Lecha". Hebcal. Retrieved October 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, pages 60–85. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2006. ISBN 1-4226-0202-8.
  4. ^ Genesis 12:1–3.
  5. ^ Genesis 12:4–6.
  6. ^ Genesis 12:7.
  7. ^ Genesis 12:8.
  8. ^ Genesis 12:9.
  9. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 62.
  10. ^ Genesis 12:10–13.
  11. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 63.
  12. ^ Genesis 12:14–15.
  13. ^ Genesis 12:16–17.
  14. ^ Genesis 12:18–19.
  15. ^ Genesis 12:19–20.
  16. ^ Genesis 13:1–4.
  17. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 65.
  18. ^ Genesis 13:5–7.
  19. ^ Genesis 13:8–9.
  20. ^ Genesis 13:10–13.
  21. ^ Genesis 13:14–17.
  22. ^ Genesis 13:18.
  23. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 68.
  24. ^ Genesis 14:1–3.
  25. ^ Genesis 14:4.
  26. ^ Genesis 14:5–7.
  27. ^ Genesis 14:8–9.
  28. ^ Genesis 14:10.
  29. ^ Genesis 14:11–12.
  30. ^ Genesis 14:13–14.
  31. ^ Genesis 14:15–16.
  32. ^ Genesis 14:17.
  33. ^ Genesis 14:18–20.
  34. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 72.
  35. ^ Genesis 14:21–24.
  36. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 73.
  37. ^ Genesis 15:1–3.
  38. ^ Genesis 15:4.
  39. ^ Genesis 15:5–6.
  40. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 74.
  41. ^ Genesis 15:9–10.
  42. ^ Genesis 15:11–12.
  43. ^ Genesis 15:13–16.
  44. ^ Genesis 15:17.
  45. ^ Genesis 15:18–21.
  46. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, pages 76–77.
  47. ^ Genesis 16:1–3.
  48. ^ Genesis 16:4–5.
  49. ^ Genesis 16:6.
  50. ^ Genesis 16:7–8.
  51. ^ Genesis 16:9–11.
  52. ^ Genesis 16:12.
  53. ^ Genesis 16:13–14.
  54. ^ Genesis 16:15–16.
  55. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 80.
  56. ^ Genesis 17:1–2.
  57. ^ Genesis 17:3–6.
  58. ^ See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 81.
  59. ^ Genesis 17:7–8.
  60. ^ Genesis 17:9–13.
  61. ^ Genesis 17:14.
  62. ^ Genesis 17:15–16.
  63. ^ Genesis 17:17–18.
  64. ^ Genesis 17:19.
  65. ^ Genesis 17:20.
  66. ^ Genesis 17:21.
  67. ^ Genesis 17:22.
  68. ^ Genesis 17:23.
  69. ^ a b See, e.g., The Schottenstein Edition Interlinear Chumash: Bereishis/Genesis. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 85.
  70. ^ Genesis 17:23–27.
  71. ^ For more on inner-Biblical interpretation, see, e.g., Benjamin D. Sommer. “Inner-biblical Interpretation.” In The Jewish Study Bible. Edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, pages 1829–35. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-529751-2.
  72. ^ On the Migration of Abraham 15:68.
  73. ^ a b Mishnah Avot 5:3. Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 685. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  74. ^ Avot of Rabbi Natan, chapter 33. Circa 700–900 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan. Translated by Judah Goldin, pages 132, 205. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1955. ISBN 0-300-00497-4. And reprinted in, e.g., The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan: An Analytical Translation and Explanation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, page 197. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986. ISBN 1-55540-073-6.
  75. ^ See Genesis 12:1–9 (leaving) and 12:10 (famine).
  76. ^ See Genesis 21:10 and 22:1–19.
  77. ^ Genesis 12:11–20 (Sarai and Pharaoh) and 21:10 (Hagar),
  78. ^ See Genesis 14:13–16.
  79. ^ See Genesis 15.
  80. ^ See Genesis 15:7.
  81. ^ Genesis 17:9–14 and 23–27.
  82. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, chapters 26–31. Early 9th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer. Translated and annotated by Gerald Friedlander, pages 187–230. London, 1916. Reprinted New York: Hermon Press, 1970. ISBN 0-87203-183-7.
  83. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 26. Reprinted in, e.g., Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer. Translated and annotated by Gerald Friedlander, pages 187–89.
  84. ^ Genesis Rabbah 38:13. Land of Israel, 5th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 310–11. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  85. ^ Genesis Rabbah 39:1. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 313.
  86. ^ Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 16b.
  87. ^ Genesis Rabbah 49:2, 64:4. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 420–23; volume 2, page 575.
  88. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 48. Reprinted in, e.g., Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer. Translated and annotated by Gerald Friedlander, 383–85.
  89. ^ Genesis Rabbah 39:11. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 319–22.
  90. ^ Babylonian Talmud Yevamot 63a.
  91. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 55a.
  92. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sotah 38b.
  93. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 99b.
  94. ^ Genesis Rabbah 39:14. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 324.
  95. ^ Genesis Rabbah 67:9. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 2, page 613.
  96. ^ Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 9a. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Avrohom Neuberger, Nasanel Kasnett, Zev Meisels, and Dovid Kamenetsky; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, volume 52, pages 9a2–4. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2001. ISBN 1-57819-625-3.
  97. ^ Mishnah Sotah 7:5; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 32a.
  98. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sotah 33b.
  99. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 44b.
  100. ^ Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 60b.
  101. ^ Genesis Rabbah 40:6. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 330–31.
  102. ^ Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 16a.
  103. ^ Genesis Rabbah 40:5. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 329.
  104. ^ Genesis Rabbah 40:5. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 329–30.
  105. ^ Babylonian Talmud Baba Metzia 59a.
  106. ^ Babylonian Talmud Arachin 16a.
  107. ^ Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 112a.
  108. ^ Genesis Rabbah 41:7. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 337–38.
  109. ^ Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:3; Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 107b, 109a.
  110. ^ Babylonian Talmud Megillah 10b.
  111. ^ Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 53a.
  112. ^ Genesis Rabbah 42:5. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 347.
  113. ^ Numbers Rabbah 19:32.
  114. ^ a b c d e f Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.
  115. ^ Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b. Genesis Rabbah 56:10. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 500. Leviticus Rabbah 25:6. Numbers Rabbah 4:8.
  116. ^ Numbers Rabbah 4:8.
  117. ^ Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b. Leviticus Rabbah 25:6.
  118. ^ a b Genesis Rabbah 43:6. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 355–56.
  119. ^ Genesis Rabbah 56:10. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 500.
  120. ^ Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b.
  121. ^ Genesis Rabbah 43:8. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 357.
  122. ^ Genesis Rabbah 85:10. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 2, pages 795–96.
  123. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52b; Song of Songs Rabbah 2:33.
  124. ^ Babylonian Talmud Baba Batra 14b–15a.
  125. ^ Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, piska 20, paragraph 1. 6th–7th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Pesikta de-Rab Kahana: R. Kahana’s Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days. Translated by William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein, page 331. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1975. ISBN 0-8276-0051-8. And Pesiqta deRab Kahana: An Analytical Translation and Explanation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 2, page 63. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. ISBN 1-55540-073-6.
  126. ^ Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael, Beshallah, chapter 7. Land of Israel, late 4th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael. Translated by Jacob Z. Lauterbach, volume 1, page 167. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1933, reissued 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0678-8.
  127. ^ Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 97a.
  128. ^ Babylonian Talmud Taanit 27b. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Mordechai Kuber and Michoel Weiner; edited by Hersh Goldwurm, volume 19, page 27b1. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1991. ISBN 1-57819-619-1. See also Megillah 31b.
  129. ^ Genesis Rabbah 95. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 2, pages 916, 921.
  130. ^ Mishnah Eduyot 2:9.
  131. ^ Genesis Rabbah 16:3. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 126–27.
  132. ^ Genesis Rabbah 45:1. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 379–80.
  133. ^ Genesis Rabbah 45:2. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 380.
  134. ^ a b Genesis Rabbah 45:7. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 385.
  135. ^ Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 92b. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Abba Zvi Naiman and Mendy Wachsman; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, volume 40, pages 92b2–3. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2001. ISBN 1-57819-636-1.
  136. ^ Babylonian Talmud Meilah 17b. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Mendy Wachsman; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr, volume 70, page 17b1. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-57819-657-4.
  137. ^ Genesis Rabbah 45:8. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, pages 385–86.
  138. ^ Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 56b.
  139. ^ 30:10. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 238.
  140. ^ Midrash Tanhuma Noach 5. 6th–7th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Metsudah Midrash Tanchuma. Translated and annotated by Avraham Davis; edited by Yaakov Y.H. Pupko, volume 1 (Bereishis 1), page 100. Monsey, New York: Eastern Book Press, 2006.
  141. ^ Mishnah Nedarim 3:11; Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 31b, 32a.
  142. ^ Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b.
  143. ^ Mishnah Keritot 1:1; Babylonian Talmud Keritot 2a.
  144. ^ Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 132b.
  145. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 29. Reprinted in, e.g., Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer. Translated and annotated by Gerald Friedlander, pages 206–07. See also Genesis Rabbah 46:5. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, volume 1, page 392. (Rabbi Akiva counted four kinds of orlah). And Tractate Orlah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Jerusalem Talmud deals with the uncircumcision of trees based on Leviticus 19:23–25. Mishnah Orlah 1:1–3:9. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, pages 158–66. Tosefta Orlah 1:1–8. Land of Israel, circa 300 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, volume 1, pages 341–43. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2. Jerusalem Talmud Orlah 1a–42a. Land of Israel, circa 400 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Elucidated by Mendy Wachsman, Gershon Hoffman, Abba Zvi Naiman, Michoel Weiner, David Azar, Menachem Goldberger, and Avrohom Neuberger; edited by Chaim Malinowitz and Yisroel Simcha Schorr, volume 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2007. ISBN 1-4226-0240-0.
  146. ^ Babylonian Talmud Sotah 14a.
  147. ^ Sifre to Deuteronomy 49:1.
  148. ^ Nosson Scherman. The Stone Edition: The Chumash, pages 100–01. Mesorah Publications, 1993. ISBN 0-89906-014-5.
  149. ^ Maimonides. “Letter to Obadiah the Proselyte.” In A Maimonides Reader. Edited, with introduction and notes by Isadore Twersky, pages 475–76. West Orange, New Jersey: Behrman House, 1972. ISBN 0-87441-200-5.
  150. ^ Maimonides. Mishneh Torah: chapter 7, halachah 2. Egypt, circa 1170–1180. Reprinted in, e.g., Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah: The Laws [which Are] the Foundations of the Torah. Translated by Eliyahu Touger, volume 1, pages 248–49. New York: Moznaim Publishing, 1989. ISBN 0940118-48-6.
  151. ^ Umberto Cassuto. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part Two: From Noah to Abraham. Jerusalem, 1949. Translated by Israel Abrahams, pages 294–96. Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1964; reprinted 1974. See also Gary A. Rendsburg. The Redaction of Genesis, pages 27–29. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1986. ISBN 0-931464-25-0. Reprinted with a new foreword, 2014. ISBN 978-1-57506-240-2. (noting a similar chiastic structure).
  152. ^ Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Positive Commandment 215. Cairo, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1:230–31. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:85–87. Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.
  153. ^ Genesis 17:10.
  154. ^ Shlomo Ganzfried. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapter 24, paragraph 1. Hungary, 1864. Reprinted in The Kleinman Edition: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Edited by Eliyahu Meir Klugman and Yosaif Asher Weiss, volume 1, page 272. Mesorah Publications, 2008. ISBN 1-4226-0832-8.
  155. ^ Shlomo Ganzfried. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapter 45, paragraph 23. Reprinted in The Kleinman Edition: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. Edited by Eliyahu Meir Klugman and Yosaif Asher Weiss, volume 2, page 132–33.
  156. ^ The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals with an Interlinear Translation. Edited by Menachem Davis, pages 568–69. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-697-3.
  157. ^ The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals with an Interlinear Translation. Edited by Menachem Davis, pages 299–300.
  158. ^ Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, page 122. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 108. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-57819-064-9.
  159. ^ Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, page 23. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.
  160. ^ Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, page 35a.
  161. ^ The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for the Sabbath and Festivals with an Interlinear Translation. Edited by Menachem Davis, pages 14–15.
  162. ^ The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments. Edited by Menachem Davis, page 41–42. Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, page 89.
  163. ^ Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, page 90.
  164. ^ Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, page 125.
  165. ^ Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, page 25.
  166. ^ See Mark L. Kligman. "The Bible, Prayer, and Maqam: Extra-Musical Associations of Syrian Jews." Ethnomusicology, volume 45 (number 3) (Autumn 2001): pages 443–479. Mark L. Kligman. Maqam and Liturgy: Ritual, Music, and Aesthetics of Syrian Jews in Brooklyn. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009. ISBN 0814332161.