Midrash Bereshit Rabba explains that Avraham Avinu was called ivri – Hebrew – because he was the one who stood up against the whole society, that he belonged to. The religion of Sumer, the original land of Abram’s family, was the ancient Mesopotamian polytheistic complicated system of the variety of gods. As Jews, we are usually familiar with two of them – Marduk and Ishtar, since their names are considered by some academic approaches as the source for the names of Mordechai and Esther. But there were more gods. Much more. Every natural power was provided by its personal god.
Another midrash tells us about Abraham seeing a beautiful castle. He asks if it is possible that such an amazing building would not have an owner. At the same moment the owner of the castle came out and said, he was the owner. Then Abraham looked around himself and asked if the whole world, being the most magnificent creation, had no owner. And God revealed to Abraham as the ruler of the Universe – melekh ha-olam.
This revelation made Abraham able to stand against the idolatry of Ur Kasdim, and to begin going on his own path. This path was shared to his descendants, to us, the Jewish people. That is why we keep holding his title – Hebrew.
These days being an Israeli Jew feels especially as ‘standing against the whole world’. The amount of people from far away countries who failed constantly to condemn the Hamas massacre under different reasons – from ‘you deserve it, Israeli settlers and occupants’ to ‘it’s a total fake, Hamas didn’t do it’ – was overwhelmingly high. Even the support of so many people from all over the world helped just partially. It’s very hard to live knowing that so many people hate you.
When I read the story of Abraham, I ask myself, how did he work it out. He left Ur Kasdim, he left Haran. He decided to get separated from his nephew – Lot. And when his wife Sarah and his concubine Hagar had a serious conflict, he sent away Hagar, pregnant with his future son – Ishmael. Today in Israel we are at war with those who see themselves as the descendants of Ishmael. And our weekly portion gives a very annoying perspective on our conflict. Especially, because the probable ways to resolve it will be found it the next two weekly portions.
As for now, this week, we have to learn another story of Abraham in Parashat Lekh Lekha. Even being ivri, when you struggle against the whole world, when your relative (the one, you decided to get separated from) is held captive, we leave everything and you fight to set him free.
As for the moment of writing those words, 224 (two hundred and twenty four) Israeli hostages are in Gaza. And this is our moral obligation as human beings and as the Hebrew descendants of Abraham to do everything we can to bring them back home!