Lech Lecha


Jewish history begins with G-d’s call to Abraham at the beginning of this week’s sidra, telling him to leave his land, his birthplace, and go to the land which G-d will show him. The Torah tells us that Abraham is seventy-five years old when this happens.

What has taken place in Abraham’s life previously? The Torah is silent here but Jewish tradition fills in the gaps.

Abraham is regarded as the first person who came to G-d as a result of his own intellectual questioning. Maimonides (Laws of Idolatry 1:3) provides the following narrative regarding Abraham’s early life:

From the time that this mighty person, as a child, day and night, he began to wonder how is it possible that this earth continually functions without a master, and who controls it, for it is impossible for it to control itself? He had no teacher, nor was there anyone to inform him. Rather, he was mired in Ur Kasdim among the foolish idolaters. His father, mother, and all the people [around him] were idol worshipers, and he would worship with them. [However,] his heart was restless until he eventually grasped the truth and understood the righteous path through correct intellectual reasoning, and he understood that there was one G-d.

Abraham reached his conclusions regarding the existence of G-d while combatting the influence of his pagan environment and his own parents. G-d did not reveal Himself and provided no help to Abraham in his quest. Abraham made his discovery entirely on his own. Maimonides continues:

Abraham was forty years old when he became aware of his Creator. Once he understood, he started to raise questions with the population of Ur Kasdim and debate with them, telling them that their path was not correct.

Rabbi J B Soloveitchik (Mesorat HaRav Chumash, p. 75) points out that Abraham’s belief in G-d solidified when he was forty years of age, yet G-d did not reveal Himself to him until he ordered Abraham to enter the land of Canaan at the age of seventy-five! During that long interim period, G-d never appeared to Abraham. Imagine the difficulties he faced as he attempted to defend his newly found faith! His peers surely scoffed at him, derisively inquiring: “Abraham, you tell us that there is a Supreme Being. Have you ever seen Him? Have you ever spoken to Him?”

Abraham searched for G-d without His help, proving G-d’s existence to himself by observing the world around him. This approach later would become known in philosophy as the Cosmological Proof for the Existence of G-d. Abraham could neither point out nor display miracles to prove G-d’s existence. Yet, despite the obstacles, he built up a loyal following who shared his religious vision.