Hebrew In Israel | Terach, Avram, And The Big Move – Learn Torah

lech lecha, genesis 12,

Hebrew In Israel | Terach, Avram, And The Big Move – Learn Torah

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Parashat Lech Lecha tells us about Avram’s calling to another land, but the end of the previous parashah tells it a little differently.

וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת לוֹט בֶּן הָרָן בֶּן בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ; וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם

“Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (the son of Haran), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and with them he set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. When they came to Haran, they settled there” Gen 11:31

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל אַבְרָם, לֶךְ לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶלהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ

“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you” Gen 12:1

A question which arises from these two verses is: Who actually initiated the move?  In one verse we find that Terah was the one who initiated the move, while the second verse clearly states that it was God who said to Avram to do so.

However, a close reading of the text will reveal what actually happened:

The text sets the words to make it look like as if Terah was the one who initiated the move. Terah was the head of the family, and it would be disrespectful for the son to do anything against his father’s will.  Therefore the text was written to show respect to Terah by mentioning his name as the one that moved, though it was actually Avram who did this.  The Smichut Parshiyot (close proximity of text) would seem to be the mechanism the writer used to hint to this possibility.  By mentioning the move in two sections with “contradicting” information, the writer actually lets us know in more detail what happened without breaking off from the main point of the theme of the section.  Terah and the genealogy are the center of the description in chapter 11, and this is why the move is named after him being the father of the household.  But when the center of attention is moved to Avram, it is made clear that it was he who initiated the move due to God’s command.  The first account is a dry and schematic description of what happened without going into to detail, while the second is more revealing.

Another detail is the plurality of the verb י.צ.א which indicates more than one person initiated the action. If it was only Terah, then only one singular masculine active verb in the form ויצא Vayetze and not Veyetzu. Hence the action is clearly attributed to at least two people, strengthening the reality that Avram was an active part in the move.

It is also important to notice how Avram’s name is mentioned more times in the text than any other name, indicating his importance in the move.  When an element is mentioned in a text several times, it is a leading word that creates a focus on that element.

As can be seen, “contradictions” in a Biblical text are in some cases actually misleading.  A writer who writes a book (assuming he is any good) does not contradict himself one page next to the other.  The text is only seemingly contradicting itself, while what is actually happening is that we are dealing with two different parts of the story from different points of view.  The one of the chronology of Terah, and the other of Avram.


Originally Published: 31 October 2014



October 25, 2017 at 1:55 pm

I enjoyed a different respective as usual, going by text. You bring a good point. Thank you

    Yoel Halevi

    October 30, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Thank You!

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