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Lech-Lecha, Lekh-Lekha, or Lech-L'cha (לֶךְ-לְךָ — Hebrew for "go!” or "leave!" or "go for you" — the fifth and sixth words in the parshah) is the third weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading. It constitutes Genesis Jews read it on the third Sabbath after Simchat Torah, generally in October or November.


The calling of Abram

God told Abram to leave his native land and his father’s house for a land that God would show him, promising to make of him a great nation, bless him, make his name great, bless those who blessed him, and curse those who cursed him. ( ) Following God’s command, at age 75, Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the wealth and persons that they had acquired in Haran, and traveled to the terebinth of Moreh, at Shechemmarker in Canaan. ( )

God appeared to Abram to tell him that God would assign the land to his heirs, and Abram built an altar to God. ( ) Abram then moved to the hill country east of Bethel and built an altar to God there and invoked God by name. ( ) Then Abram journeyed toward the Negeb. ( )

Wife as sister

Famine struck the land, so Abram went down to Egypt, asking Sarai to say that she was his sister so that the Egyptians would not kill him. ( ) When they entered Egypt, Pharaoh’s courtiers praised her beauty to Pharaoh, and she was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. Pharaoh took Sarai as his wife. ( ) Because of her, Abram acquired sheep, oxen, donkeys, slaves, and camels, but God afflicted Pharaoh and his household with mighty plagues. ( ) Pharaoh questioned Abram why he had not told Pharaoh that Sarai was Abram’s wife, but had said that she was his sister. ( ) Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abram and had his men take them away with all their possessions. ( )

Abram and Lot divide the land

Abram, Sarai, and Lot returned to the altar near Bethel. ( )Abram and Lot now had so many sheep and cattle that the land could not support them both, and their herdsmen quarreled. ( ) Abram proposed to Lot that they separate, inviting Lot to choose which land he would take. ( ) Lot saw how well watered the plain of the Jordanmarker was, so he chose it for himself, and journeyed eastward, settling near Sodom, a city of very wicked sinners, while Abram remained in Canaan. ( )

God promised to give all the land that Abram could see to him and his offspring forever, and to make his offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth. ( ) Abram moved to the terebinths of Mamremarker in Hebronmarker, and built an altar there to God. ( )

War between the four kings and the five

The Mesopotamian Kings Amraphel of Shinar, Arioch of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer of Elammarker, and Tidal of Goiim made war on the Canaanite kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar, who joined forces at the Valley of Siddim, now the Dead Seamarker. ( ) The Canaanite kings had served Chedorlaomer for twelve years, but rebelled in the thirteenth year. ( ) In the fourteenth year, Chedorlaomer and the Mesopotamian kings with him went on a military campaign and defeated several peoples in and around Canaan: the Rephaim, the Zuzim, the Emim, the Horites, the Amalekites, and the Amorites. ( ) Then the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar engaged the four Mesopotamian kings in battle in the Valley of Siddim. ( ) The Mesopotamians routed the Canaanites, and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled into bitumen pits in the valley, while the rest escaped to the hill country. ( ) The Mesopotamians seized all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as Lot and his possessions, and departed. ( )

A fugitive brought the news to Abram, who mustered his 318 retainers, and pursued the invaders north to Danmarker. ( ) Abram and his servants defeated them at night, chased them north of Damascusmarker, and brought back all the people and possessions, including Lot and his possessions. ( )

When Abram returned, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, the Valley of the King. ( ) King Melchizedek of Salem (Jerusalemmarker), a priest of God Most High, brought out bread and wine and blessed Abram and God Most High, and Abram gave him a tenth of everything. ( ) The king of Sodom offered Abram to keep all the possessions if he would merely return the people, but Abram swore to God Most High not to take so much as a thread or a sandal strap from Sodom, but would take only shares for the men who went with him. ( )

The covenant between the pieces

Some time later, the word of God appeared to Abram, saying not to fear, for his reward would be very great, but Abram questioned what God could give him, as he was destined to die childless, and his steward Eliezer of Damascus would be his heir. ( ) The word of God replied that Eliezer would not be his heir, Abram’s own son would. ( ) God took Abram outside and bade him to count the stars, for so numerous would his offspring be, and because Abram put his trust in God, God reckoned it to his merit. ( ) God directed Abram to bring a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a bird, to cut them in two, and to place each half opposite the other. ( ) Abram drove away birds of prey that came down upon the carcasses, and as the sun was about to set, he fell into a deep sleep. ( ) God told Abram that his offspring would be strangers in a land not theirs, and be enslaved 400 years, but God would execute judgment on the nation they were to serve, and in the end they would go free with great wealth and return in the fourth generation, after the iniquity of the Amorites was complete. ( ) And there appeared a smoking oven, and a flaming torch, which passed between the pieces. ( ) And God made a covenant with Abram to assign to his offspring the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates: the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. ( )

Abram Receiving Hagar (18th Century French etching)

Hagar and Ishmael

Having borne no children after 10 years in Canaan, Sarai bade Abram to consort with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar, so that Sarai might have a son through her, and Abram did as Sarai requested. ( ) When Hagar saw that she had conceived, Sarai was lowered in her esteem, and Sarai complained to Abram. ( ) Abram told Sarai that her maid was in her hands, and Sarai treated her harshly, so Hagar ran away. ( )

An angel of God found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness, and asked her where she came from and where she was going, and she replied that she was running away from her mistress. ( ) The angel told her to go back to her mistress and submit to her harsh treatment, for God would make Hagar’s offspring too numerous to count; she would bear a son whom she should name Ishmael, for God had paid heed to her suffering. ( ) Ishmael would be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him, but he would dwell alongside his kinsmen. ( ) Hagar called God “El-roi,” meaning that she had gone on seeing after God saw her, and the well was called Beer-lahai-roi. ( ) And when Abram was 86 years old, Hagar bore him a son, and Abram gave him the name Ishmael. ( )

The covenant of circumcision

When Abram was 99 years old, God appeared to Abram as El Shaddai and asked him to walk in God’s ways and be blameless, for God would establish a covenant with him and make him exceedingly numerous. ( ) Abram threw himself on his face, and God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, promising to make him the father of a multitude of nations and kings. ( ) God promised to maintain the covenant with Abraham and his offspring as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, and assigned all the land of Canaan to him and his offspring as an everlasting holding. ( ) God further told Abraham that he and his offspring throughout the ages were to keep God’s covenant and every male (including every slave) was to be circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin at the age of eight days as a sign of the covenant with God. ( ) If any male failed to circumcise the flesh of his foreskin, that person was to be cut off from his kin for having broken God’s covenant. ( )

And God renamed Sarai as Sarah, and told Abraham that God would bless her and give Abraham a son by her so that she would give rise to nations and rulers. ( ) Abraham threw himself on his face and laughed at the thought that a child could be born to a man of a hundred and a woman of ninety, and Abraham asked God to bless Ishmael. ( ) But God told him that Sarah would bear Abraham a son, and Abraham was to name him Isaac, and God would maintain the everlasting covenant with him and his offspring. ( ) In response to Abraham’s prayer, God blessed Ishmael as well and promised to make him exceedingly numerous, the father of twelve chieftains and a great nation. ( ) But God would maintain the covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah would bear at the same season the next year. ( ) And when God finished speaking, God disappeared. ( ) That very day, Abraham circumcised himself at the age of 99, Ishmael at the age of 13, and every male in his household, as God had directed. ( )

Abram, Sarah, and Lot Journey to the Promised Land (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)
The Caravan of Abram (watercolor by James Tissot)

In early nonrabbinic interpretation

Genesis chapter 12

Philo interpreted Abram’s migration allegorically as the story of a soul devoted to virtue and searching for the true God. (Philo. On the Migration of Abraham 15:68.)

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Genesis chapter 12

The Midrash asked why God chose Abram. Rabbi Hiyya said that Abram's father Terah manufactured idols and once went away and left Abram to mind the store. A woman came with a plateful of flour and asked Abram to offer it to the idols. Abram took a stick, broke the idols, and put the stick in the largest idol’s hand. When Terah returned, he demanded that Abram explain what he had done. Abram told Terah that the idols fought among themselves and the largest broke the others with the stick. “Why do you make sport of me?” Terah cried, “Do they have any knowledge?” Abram replied, “Listen to what you are saying!” (Genesis Rabbah 38:13.)

The Mishnah taught that Abraham suffered ten trials — starting at — and withstood them all. ( Avot 5:3.) The Babylonian Talmud reported that some deduced from that change of place can cancel a man’s doom, but another argued that it was the merit of the land of Israel that availed Abraham. (Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashanah 16b.)

Abram Called To Be a Blessing (illustration from a Bible card published 1906 by the Providence Lithograph Company)
Rab Judah deduced from that to refuse to say grace when given a cup to bless is one of three things that shorten a man’s life. ( Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 55a.) And Rabbi Joshua ben Levi deduced from that every kohen who pronounces the benediction is himself blessed. ( Babylonian Talmud Sotah 38b.)

Resh Lakish deduced from that the Torah regards the man who teaches Torah to his neighbor’s son as though he had fashioned him. ( Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 99b.)

The Mishnah equated the terebinth of Moreh to which Abram journeyed in with the terebinths of Moreh to which Moses directed the Israelites to journey in Deuteronomy to hear the blessings and curses at Mount Gerizimmarker and Mount Ebal ( Mishnah Sotah 7:5; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 32a), and the Talmud equated both with Shechem. ( Babylonian Talmud Sotah 33b.)

Rabbi Elazar said that one should always anticipate misfortune with prayer; for it was only by virtue of Abram’s prayer between Beth-el and Ai reported in that Israel’s troops survived at the Battle of Ai in the days of Joshua.” ( Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 44b.)

The Rabbis deduced from that when there is a famine in town, one should emigrate. ( Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 60b.)

Rab deduced from that Abram had not even looked at his own wife before that point. ( Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 16a.)

Rabbi Helbo deduced from that a man must always observe the honor due to his wife, because blessings rest on a man’s home only on account of her. ( Babylonian Talmud Baba Metzia 59a.)

Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani said in the name of Rabbi Johanan that leprosy resulted from seven things: slander, bloodshed, vain oath, incest, arrogance, robbery, and envy. The Gemara cited God’s striking Pharaoh with plagues in to show that incest had led to leprosy. (Babylonian Talmud Arachin 16a.)

Genesis chapter 13

A Baraita deduced from the words, “like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt,” in that among all the nations, there was none more fertile than Egypt. And the Baraita taught that there was no more fertile spot in Egypt than Zoan, where kings lived, for Isaiah says of Pharaoh, “his princes are at Zoan.” And in all of Israel, there was no more rocky ground than that at Hebron, which is why the Patriarchs buried their dead there, as reported in But rocky Hebron was still seven times as fertile as lush Zoan, as the Baraita interpreted the words “and Hebron was built seven years before Zoanmarker in Egyptmarker” in Numbers to mean that Hebron was seven times as fertile as Zoan. The Baraita rejected the plain meaning of “built,” reasoning that Ham would not build a house for his younger son Canaan (in whose land was Hebron) before he built one for his elder son Mizraim (in whose land was Zoan, and lists (presumably in order of birth) “the sons of Ham: Cush, and Mizraim, and Put, and Canaan.” ( Babylonian Talmud Ketubot 112a.)

The Mishnah deduced from that the men of Sodom would have no place in the world to come. ( Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:3; Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 107b, 109a.)

Genesis chapter 14

Rabbi Levi, or some say Rabbi Jonathan, said that a tradition handed down from the Men of the Great Assembly taught that wherever the Bible employs the term “and it was” or “and it came to pass” (וַיְהִי, wa-yehi), as it does in it indicates misfortune, as one can read wa-yehi as wai, hi, “woe, sorrow.” Thus the words, “And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel,” in are followed by the words, “they made war,” in And the Gemara also cited the instances of followed by followed by Joshua followed by the rest of followed by 1 Samuel followed by followed by close after followed by 1 Kings Ruth followed by the rest of and Esther followed by Haman. But the Gemara also cited as counterexamples the words, “And there was evening and there was morning one day,” in as well as and So Rav Ashi replied that wa-yehi sometimes presages misfortune, and sometimes it does not, but the expression “and it came to pass in the days of” always presages misfortune. And for that proposition, the Gemara cited Jeremiah and (Babylonian Talmud Megillah 10b.)

Rab and Samuel equated the Amraphel of with the Nimrod whom describes as “a mighty warrior on the earth,” but the two differed over which was his real name. One held that his name was actually Nimrod, and calls him Amraphel because he ordered Abram to be cast into a burning furnace (and thus the name Amraphel reflects the words for “he said” (amar) and “he cast” (hipil)). But the other held that his name was actually Amraphel, and calls him Nimrod because he led the world in rebellion against God (and thus the name Nimrod reflects the word for “he led in rebellion” (himrid)). (Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 53a.)

Rabbi Abbahu said in Rabbi Eleazar’s name that “his trained men” in meant Torah scholars, and thus when Abram made them fight to rescue Lot, he brought punishment on himself and his children, who were consequently enslaved in Egyptian for 210 years. But Samuel said that Abram was punished because he questioned whether God would keep God’s promise, when in Abram asked God “how shall I know that I shall inherit it?” And Rabbi Johanan said that Abram was punished because he prevented people from entering beneath the wings of the Shekhinah and being saved, when in the king of Sodom said it to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods yourself,” and Abram consented to leave the prisoners with the king of Sodom. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.)

Rab interpreted the words “And he armed his trained servants, born in his own house” in to mean that Abram equipped them by teaching them the Torah. Samuel read the word vayarek (“he armed”) to mean “bright,” and thus interpreted the words “And he armed his trained servants” in to mean that Abram made them bright with gold, that is, rewarded them for accompanying him. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.)

Reading the report in that Abram led 318 men, Rabbi Ammi bar Abba said that Abram’s servant Eliezer outweighed them all. The Gemara reported that others (employing gematria) said that Eliezer alone accompanied Abram to rescue Lot, as the Hebrew letters in Eliezer’s name have a numerical value of 318. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.)

Abram and Melchizedek (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld from the 1860 Bible in Pictures)
Midrash identified the Melchizedek of with Noah's son Shem. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7, 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.) The Rabbis taught that Melchizedek acted as a priest and handed down Adam’s robes to Abraham. (Numbers Rabbah 4:8.) Rabbi Zechariah said on Rabbi Ishmael’s authority (or others say, it was taught at the school of Rabbi Ishmael) that God intended to continue the priesthood from Shem’s descendants, as says, “And he (Melchizedek/Shem) was the priest of the most high God.” But then Melchizedek gave precedence in his blessing to Abram over God, and thus God decided to bring forth the priesthood from Abram. As reports, “And he (Melchizedek/Shem) blessed him (Abram), and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God the Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’” Abram replied to Melchizedek/Shem by questioning whether the blessing of a servant should be given precedence over that of the master. And straightaway, God gave the priesthood to Abram, as says, “The Lord (God) said to my Lord (Abram), Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,” which is followed in by, “The Lord has sworn, and will not repent, ‘You (Abram) are a priest for ever, after the order (dibrati) of Melchizedek,’” meaning, “because of the word (dibbur) of Melchizedek.” Hence says, “And he (Melchizedek/Shem) was the priest of the most high God,” implying that Melchizedek/Shem was a priest, but not his descendants. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6.)

Rabbi Isaac the Babylonian said that Melchizedek was born circumcised. (Genesis Rabbah 43:6.) A Midrash taught that Melchizedek called Jerusalem “Salem.” (Genesis Rabbah 56:10.) The Rabbis said that Melchizedek instructed Abraham in the Torah. (Genesis Rabbah 43:6.) Rabbi Eleazar said that Melchizedek’s school was one of three places where the Holy Spirit manifested itself. (Babylonian Talmud Makkot 23b.)

Rabbi Judah said in Rabbi Nehorai's name that Melchizedek’s blessing yielded prosperity for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Genesis Rabbah 43:8.) Ephraim Miksha'ah the disciple of Rabbi Meir said in the latter's name that Tamar descended from Melchizedek. (Genesis Rabbah 85:10.)

Rabbi Hana bar Bizna citing Rabbi Simeon Hasida (or others say Rabbi Berekiah in the name of Rabbi Isaac) identified Melchizedek as one of the four craftsmen of whom Zechariah wrote in Zechariah (Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52b; Song of Songs Rabbah 2:33.) The Gemara taught that David wrote the Book of Psalms, including in it the work of the elders, including Melchizedek in ( Babylonian Talmud Baba Batra 14b–15a.)

Genesis chapter 15

The Gemara expanded on Abram’s conversation with God in , quoting Abram to ask: “Master of the Universe, should Israel sin before You, will You do to them as You have done to the generation of the Flood and to the generation of the Dispersion?” God replied: “No.” Abram then said to God: “Master of the Universe, ‘Let me know whereby I shall inherit it.’” ( ) God answered: “Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old.” ( ) Abram then continued: “Master of the Universe! This holds good while the Templemarker remains in being, but when the Temple will no longer be, what will become of them?” God replied: “I have already long ago provided for them in the Torah the order of sacrifices, and whenever they read it, I will deem it as if they had offered them before me, and I will grant them pardon for all their iniquities.” (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 27b, Megillah 31b.)

The Gemara expounded on the words, “And He brought him outside,” in The Gemara taught that Abram had told God that Abram had employed astrology to see his destiny and had seen that he was not fated to have children. God replied that Abram should go “outside” of his astrological thinking, for the stars do not determine Israel’s fate. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.)

Resh Lakish taught that Providence punishes bodily those who unjustifiably suspect the innocent. In Exodus Moses said that the Israelites “will not believe me,” but God knew that the Israelites would believe. God thus told Moses that the Israelites were believers and descendants of believers, while Moses would ultimately disbelieve. The Gemara explained that reports that “the people believed” and reports that the Israelites’ ancestor Abram “believed in the Lord,” while reports that Moses “did not believe.” Thus, Moses was smitten when in God turned his hand white as snow. ( Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 97a.)

The Mishnah pointed to God’s announcement to Abram in that his descendants would return from Egyptian slavery to support the proposition that the merits of the father bring about benefits for future generations. ( Mishnah Eduyot 2:9.)

Genesis chapter 16

Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai deduced from the words, “and she had a handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar,” in that Hagar was Pharaoh’s daughter. Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai taught that when Pharaoh saw what God did on Sarah’s behalf, Pharaoh gave his daughter to Sarai, reasoning that it would be better for his daughter to be a handmaid in Sarai’s house than a mistress in another house. Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai read the name “Hagar” in to mean “reward” (agar), imagining Pharaoh to say, “Here is your reward (agar).” (Genesis Rabbah 45:1.)

A Midrash deduced from Sarai’s words in “Behold now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing; go into my handmaid; it may be that I shall be built up through her,” that one who is childless is as one who is demolished. The Rabbi of the Midrash reasoned that only that which is demolished must be “built up.” (Genesis Rabbah 45:2.)

The Gemara taught that if one sees Ishmael in a dream, then God hears that person’s prayer (perhaps because the name “Ishmael” derives from “the Lord has heard” in or perhaps because “God heard” (yishmah Elohim,יִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים ) Ishmael’s voice in ). ( Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 56b.)

Genesis chapter 17

Rabbi taught that notwithstanding all the precepts that Abram fulfilled, God did not call him “perfect” until he circumcised himself, for in God told Abram, “Walk before me and be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and you,” and in God explained that God’s covenant required that every male be circumcised. ( Mishnah Nedarim 3:11; Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 31b, 32a.)

Rab Judah said in Rab’s name that when God told Abram in “Walk before me and be perfect,” Abram was seized with trembling, thinking that perhaps there was some shameful flaw in him that needed correcting. But when God added in “And I will make My covenant between me and you,” God set Abram’s mind at ease. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.)

Rabbi Hoshaiah taught that if one perfects oneself, then good fortune will follow, for says, “Walk before me and be perfect,” and shortly thereafter reports Abram’s reward for doing so: “And you shall be a father of many nations.” ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32a.)

Rabbi Ammi bar Abba employed gematria to interpret the meaning of Abram’s name change in from Abram (אַבְרָם) to Abraham (אַבְרָהָם). According to Rabbi Ammi bar Abba, at first God gave Abram mastery over 243 of his body parts, as the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in Abram is 243. Then God gave Abraham mastery over 248 of his body parts, adding five body parts, as the numerical value of the Hebrew letter hei (ה) that God added to his name is five. The Gemara explained that as a reward for Abraham’s undergoing circumcision, God granted Abraham control over his two eyes, his two ears, and the organ that he circumcised. ( Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 32b.)

The Mishnah notes that transgressing the command of circumcision in is one of 36 transgressions that cause the transgressor to be cut off from his people. (Mishnah Keritot 1:1; Babylonian Talmud Keritot 2a.)

The Gemara read the command of to require an uncircumcised adult man to become circumcised, and the Gemara read the command of Leviticus to require the father to circumcise his infant child. ( Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 132b.)


According to Maimonides and Sefer ha-Chinuch, there is one positive commandment in the parshah:
  • The precept of circumcision ( )
(Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Positive Commandment 215. Cairomarker, Egypt, 1170–1180. Reprinted in Maimonides. The Commandments: Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth of Maimonides. Translated by Charles B. Chavel, 1:230–31. London: Soncino Press, 1967. ISBN 0-900689-71-4. Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 1:85–87. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1991. ISBN 0-87306-179-9.)


The haftarah for the parshah is:

A page from a 14th century German Haggadah

In the liturgy

The Passover Haggadah, in the concluding nirtzah section of the Seder, in a reference to recounts how God granted victory to the righteous convert Abram at the middle of the night. (Joseph Tabory. JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, 122. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8276-0858-0. Menachem Davis. The Interlinear Haggadah: The Passover Haggadah, with an Interlinear Translation, Instructions and Comments, 108. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-57819-064-9.)

The name “Elyon” or “God Most High,” which Melchizedek used in is used in to refer to God, and is in turn recited after the Lekhah Dodi liturgical poem of the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer service. (Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 23. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0-916219-20-8.)

A page from the Kaufmann Haggadah
The Amidah draws on God’s words in “Fear not, Abram, I am a shield to you,” to refer to God as “Shield of Abraham.” (Hammer, at 35a.)In the hymn Adon Olam (“Lord of the World”), use of the title “Adon” recalls the merit of Abraham, who first addressed God with the title in (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, 14–15. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8.)

The Haggadah, in the magid section of the Seder, quotes to demonstrate that God keeps God’s promises. (Davis, at 41–42; Tabory, at 89.) Thereafter, the Haggadah reports that Israel “went down to Egypt — forced to do so by the word [of God],” and many commentators think that this statement refers to God’s foretelling in that Abram’s descendants would “be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them.” (Tabory, at 90.) And in the concluding nirtzah section, in a reference to God’s promises to Abram in the Covenant Bewteen the Pieces in the Haggadah reports that God “disclosed to the one from the Orient at midnight on Passover.” (Tabory, at 125.)

Following the Kabbalat Shabbat service and prior to the Friday evening (Ma'ariv) service, Jews traditionally read rabbinic sources on the observance of the Sabbath, including Mishnah Shabbat 18:3. Mishnah Shabbat 18:3, in turn, makes clear the precedence of the law of circumcision in over even the observance of the Sabbath. (Hammer, at 25.)

The Weekly Maqam

In the Weekly Maqam, Sephardi Jews each week base the songs of the services on the content of that week's parshah. For parshah Lech Lecha, Sephardi Jews apply Maqam Saba, the maqam that symbolizes a covenant (berit). It is appropriate because in this parshah, Abraham and his sons undergo circumcisions, a ritual that signifies a covenant between man and God.

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:



  • (numerous as stars);
  • (circumcision).
  • (numerous as stars).

Early nonrabbinic


Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Nedarim 3:11; Sotah 7:5; Sanhedrin 10:3; Eduyot 2:9; Avot 5:3; Keritot 1:1. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 412, 458, 605, 645–46, 685, 836. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Berakhot 1:12–13; Shabbat 7:24, 15:9; Yevamot 8:5; Nedarim 2:5; Sotah 5:12; Sanhedrin 13:8; Eduyot 1:14. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Berakhot 17a–b; Sheviit 43b; Bikkurim 5b. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 1, 6b, 12. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2005–2008.
  • Genesis Rabbah 39:1–47:10. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.


  • Rashi. Commentary. Genesis 12–17. Troyesmarker, France, late 11th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Rashi. The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary Translated, Annotated, and Elucidated. Translated and annotated by Yisrael Isser Zvi Herczeg, 1:115–72. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89906-026-9.
  • Judah Halevi. Kuzari. 2:14, 16, 34, 44, 80; 3:7; 4:17. Toledomarker, Spain, 1130–1140. Reprinted in, e.g., Jehuda Halevi. Kuzari: An Argument for the Faith of Israel. Intro. by Henry Slonimsky, 90, 92, 108, 110, 132, 142, 223. New York: Schocken, 1964. ISBN 0-8052-0075-4.
  • Zohar 76b–96b. Spain, late 13th Century.


  • Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, 2:26; 3:33, 34, 35, 36. England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 332, 417, 436, 443–44, 459–60. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
  • Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. Mesillat Yesharim, ch. 4. Amsterdam, 1740. Reprinted in Mesillat Yesharim: The Path of the Just, 53. Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1966. ISBN 0-87306-114-4.
  • Moses Mendelssohn. Jerusalem, § 2. Berlin, 1783. Reprinted in Jerusalem: Or on Religious Power and Judaism. Translated by Allan Arkush; introduction and commentary by Alexander Altmann, 100. Hanover, N.H.: Brandeis Univ. Press, 1983. ISBN 0-87451-264-6.
  • Abraham Isaac Kook. The Moral Principles. Early 20th Century. Reprinted in Abraham Isaac Kook: the Lights of Penitence, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems. Translated by Ben Zion Bokser, 182. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2159-X.
  • Irving Fineman. Jacob, An Autobiograhical Novel, 11, 17. New York: Random House, 1941.
  • Thomas Mann. Joseph and His Brothers. Translated by John E. Woods, 4–11, 36, 43, 52–54, 59, 78, 89–91, 93, 95–98, 100–02, 125, 141, 148, 153–54, 177, 256–57, 309–10, 339–55, 385, 425, 492, 523, 555, 593–94, 596, 671, 763, 778–79, 781, 788, 806, 859. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4001-9. Originally published as Joseph und seine Brüder. Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer Verlag, 1943.
  • Zofia Kossak. The Covenant: A Novel of the Life of Abraham the Prophet. New York: Roy, 1951.
  • Martin Buber. On the Bible: Eighteen studies, 22–43. New York: Schocken Books, 1968.
  • Mario Brelich. The Holy Embrace. Translated by John Shepley. Marlboro, Vermont: Marlboro Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56897-002-1. Originally published as Il Sacro Amplesso. Milan: Adelphi Edizioni s.p.a., 1972.
  • Terrence Malick. Days of Heaven. 1978.
  • Adin Steinsaltz. Biblical Files, 12–29. New York: Basic Books, 1984. ISBN 0-465-00670-1.
  • Phyllis Trible. “Hagar: The Desolation of Rejection.” In Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives, 9–35. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. ISBN 0-8006-1537-9.
  • Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1986. ISBN 0-395-40425-8.
  • Marc Gellman. “Finding the Right Man.” In Does God Have a Big Toe? Stories About Stories in the Bible, 47–51. New York: HarperCollins, 1989. ISBN 0-06-022432-0.
  • Aaron Wildavsky. Assimilation versus Separation: Joseph the Administrator and the Politics of Religion in Biblical Israel, 5–6, 15, 17–29. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1993. ISBN 1-56000-081-3.
  • Jacob Milgrom. “Bible Versus Babel: Why did God tell Abraham to leave Mesopotamia, the most advanced civilization of its time, for the backwater region of Canaan?” Bible Review. 11 (2) (Apr. 1995).
  • Walter Wangerin, Jr. The Book of God, 13–25. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1996. ISBN 0-310-20005-9.
  • Orson Scott Card. Sarah: Women of Genesis. Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 2000. ISBN 1-57008-994-9.
  • David A. deSilva. “Why Did God Choose Abraham?” Bible Review 16 (3) (June 2000): 16–21, 42–44.
  • Alan Lew. This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation, 20. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 2003. ISBN 0-316-73908-1.
  • Marek Halter, Sarah. New York: Crown Publishers, 2004. ISBN 1-4000-5272-6.
  • Esther Jungreis. Life Is a Test, 28–29, 49, 68, 130, 134, 214–15, 236. Brooklyn: Shaar Press, 2007. ISBN 1-4226-0609-0.

See also

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