latest Post

Two Minutes of Torah: Lech Lecha - The Children of Abraham

When we divide the world's religions we often focus on the division between the monotheistic and polytheistic religion; essentially dividing religions between those with one God and those with more than one.  With this division the monotheistic group are often referred to as the Abrahamic religions; implying that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all descendants of Abraham.  And it is this week, in our Torah portion, that we read about Abraham's covenant with God and the beginning of these religions.  

God calls to Abraham lech lecha, instructing him to leave his homeland and set out on this journey to the Promised Land to enter into the covenant with God.  Another element is added to the covenant later in the Torah portion when God says to Abraham that his children and descendants will be more numerous than the stars and therefore impossible to count.  

While we focus on Abraham's covenant, the reality is that in this week's Torah portion we receive a second covenant.  Following on from Abraham's entry into the covenant.  We get the story of Hagar, who is Sarah's maidservant.  With Sarah unable to have a child she gives Hagar to Abraham so that he might conceive through her. However after falling pregnant Sarah persecutes Hagar so that she flees into the wilderness; it is there that we read about this second covenant.  

Alone in the wilderness she meets an angel of Adonai, and that Angel gives her a similar promise as was previously given to Abraham, telling her: "I will greatly increase your offspring and they shall be too numerous to count".  She is then told that she will have a son whom she shall name Ishmael, and after the exchange she says God is El Roi because she has seen God in this place.  Through the name Ishmael, which means God hears, and through the name El Roi, which means God sees, we know that at this moment Hagar has a divine encounter.  

In this Torah portion we therefore have the beginnings of two covenants; one with Abraham and one with Hagar; a Jewish covenant and a Muslim covenants.  God placed them in the Torah in close proximity, I think, believing that the two of them could coexist in the same Torah portion and then by extension, coexist in this world, and even in the same land.  

The challenge for us today as we read the Torah portion is to see the way that often Jews and Muslims are portrayed as enemies; rivals at war with one another.  But when we go back to the very beginning and look at how the two covenants started at the same time as parallel covenants, intended to exist alongside one another we see a very different message. And while I don't want to skip ahead, it is striking that at the end of Abraham's life.  It is Isaac and Ishmael who come together to bury their father.  Today, we must hope that the children of Isaac and the children of Ishmael can once again come together; no longer for burials, but to make peace with one another.

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
Recommended Posts × +


Post a Comment