Lech Lecha – A Lonesome Man of Faith
In the Torah’s narrative we don’t learn much about Abraham himself. The Torah gives us brief glimpse and records small exchanges, but on the whole we are left to fill the gaps with the help of the Oral Tradition. The Midrash tells us much about Abraham, many stories that are not included in the verses, some stemming from allusions as slight as the name of a place. The portrayal of Abraham (initially Abram) depicts a man who is profoundly committed to the Lord he had discovered and to a life of serving Him. The legends of Abraham’s early life tell of intellectual searching and probing, culminating ultimately in discovery of monotheism as we know it. The stories tell of deep commitment and stubborn perseverance and self sacrifice. Later in life, the life recorded occasionally in the Torah, Abraham can be pictured in our minds as a man worn and weary, yet a sagacious man who deeply cares for others. His struggling and suffering through life only made him more steadfast in his faith and more sensitive to the suffering of others.
The Parsha begins by Abram’s journey from his extended family and acquaintances. His small household included his wife and his nephew Lot whom Abram had taken under his wing. He was already weathered by that time, having withstood enormous pressure over the years to conform to the pagan beliefs of greater society. He understood that in order to settle and raise a family with values and beliefs similar to his own he had to sever his ties to his birthplace and early home. He yearned more than anything else to establish descendants, a family who would continue this legacy he had started and follow the will of the Lord. G-d promised him that he would have many descendants in the new land he would come to.
This dream of Abraham wouldn’t materialize, it seemed. Years passed and he and his wife remained childless. He was tormented by trials and setbacks. Sara was abducted by the Pharaoh when they sought refuge from the drought in Egypt. Later, having established some wealth he had to part ways with his nephew Lot, the only member of his family he was still close to. We cannot help but picture Abraham as a very sad man. If we put ourselves into his shoes, experiencing the events of his life, we would be depressed. But Abraham was not a sad man. He was endlessly patient and loyal to the end. His namesake, Abraham Lincoln, suffered many setbacks in his life as well, and he was indeed a melancholy man for some of his life, but our forefather Abraham was not depressed as far as we know.