Sanctifying God’s Name & Abram’s Identity

Rabbi Israel Chait

The Medrash states that Terach informed on Abram, his son. (God had not yet changed his name to “Abraham”) Terach reported to Nimrod that Abram was a societal deviant, not adhering to the philosophies of the masses. We learn from Maimonides’ history of Abram, (Laws of Idolatry 1:3) that Abram realized and educated many on monotheism. Abram exposed the flaws of idolatry to the masses. These included the entire generation in which Abram lived. Understandably, Abram was not particularly liked, and his father too did not tolerate him. Terach then informed on Abram to the current leader Nimrod. According to Medrash, Abram was then cast into a furnace, but was miraculously saved.

Informing on his son, Terach did not display normal, parental behavior. It is normal for a child to rebel against the father, but not the reverse. However, later on, Terach had a change of heart and took Abram and his nephew Lote from Ur Kasdim: (Gen. 11:31) “And Terach took Abram his son, and Lote, son of Haran, son of his brother, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, wife of Abram his son, and they exited with him from us Kasdim to travel to the land of Canaan. And they came to Charan, and they dwelled there.”

Terach’s remaining in Charan - not continuing on to his initial destination of Canaan - teaches that Terach’s goal was not so much to reach Canaan, but rather, to leave Ur Kasdim. In Charan, he decided he was far enough out of reach of Ur Kasdim.

Abram’s influence in Ur Kasdim was tied to his identity as a citizen of Ur Kasdim, who was a revolutionary in religion. The authorities considered him an irreligious person, who had renounced the religion of the state. He was nevertheless influential. People came to him to hear his ideas. After his conviction and miraculous escape, he assumed another identity: an exile, who had convinced his greatest adversary, his own father, to stand along side him. Terach did not really repent; he did not really embrace the ideas of his son’s new religion, but was sorry for acting against him. He felt guilty as a father for wronging him, and took him out of Ur, together with the son of his deceased son who died at the hands of Nimrod. Although Terach acted out of guilt, to the world, it appeared that Abram’s former prosecutor was converted to his supporter. This was Abram’s new platform for the world. People would no doubt be curious to meet with such a person; a former rebel against the state, who had escaped miraculously, and had won over his greatest adversary, his own father.

Abram expected to use his new identity as a means to influence people and teach them the true idea of God. At this point, God intervened through prophecy and told him to leave his land and all the attachments he had to it, and to leave the house of his father. He would concern himself only with attaining his further perfection by breaking all attachments and emotional ties to his roots, and emerging as a totally independent individual – not only intellectually, but emotionally as well. As to his identity and public platform, which would be lost due to his travels, God would supply this for him. “…I will bless you and make your name great.” (Gen. 12:2) This injunction freed Abram to work only on the world of his inner perfection, while the platform for his success would be supplied by the Almighty.

Why does the Torah not reveal anything about Abram’s greatest accomplishments, his own discovery of the true idea of God, the Creator of the universe? The Torah is not a book about personal accomplishments. It is a book about the sanctification of God’s name, by making Him known to the world. This could only be accomplished through God’s assistance and constant providence. As great as Abram’s personal accomplishment was, it would have vanished in time, were it not for God’s intervention, which began with the injunction, “Lech Lecha” (“Go forth”) to Abram, and found its culmination in the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.

Thus, the Torah introduces us to Abram under the injunction of “Lech Lecha” - the means through which the eternal sanctification of God’s name became possible.