In the opening to Lech Lecha, Avraham, our forefather as well as the father of Christianity and Islam, is given his first of ten tests: the instruction to leave his land and to travel to the land of Canaan. No account of his birth or childhood is provided, nor is there any explanation given for his selection by God.
In last week’s Parsha, Noach was introduced to us as “a righteous man, blameless in his generation,” who walked with God. It is clear why he was chosen. So too with Moshe. In the book of Shemot, we see that the choice of Moshe as a leader is preceded by stories of his birth and youth, including episodes displaying his strong sense of justice. No such reason or background is found with Avraham.
The Midrashim fill in the gaps for us and tell us of the early life of Avraham, providing insight into the reasons why he was chosen. We hear of him as a philosopher who discovered monotheism. He was an iconoclast who smashed idols. He protested injustice and was a paradigm of kindness, traits he would later instill in his children.
It is striking that Terach, Avraham’s father, didn’t see any of these amazing attributes. In fact, the Midrash tells us that Terach is the one who brought Avraham to Nimrod, presenting him as not fitting in with society, and in need of re-education.
All too often we don’t have the vision to see or appreciate our own potential, or that of our children. We may even be afraid or fearful of the path that our child seems to be taking, as is the case with Terach.
Avraham was an optimist and a believer. A believer in God, in the possibilities that lie ahead. He looks up at the sky; he can see above and beyond. The stars are too numerous for him to count, just as his future progeny will be. Even though at that moment he has no biological children, he has the ability to believe God’s word that he will father a nation.
We assume that this nation will come about through a successor, such as his servant Eliezer, or his nephew Lot. Then later through Yishmael, his son with Hagar. But not through Sara. It is her idea to offer her maidservant to her husband in order to give him children, as she herself is physically unable. Then, aged ninety years old, Sara gives birth and becomes the mother of all nations.
Through Parshat Lech Lecha we can appreciate our potential, and that of our children, and reflect on what we can do to channel and fulfill it. A man not appreciated, feared even, by his father, becomes our role model and father. His wife, childless for so many years becomes one of the four Matriarchs. It is apt to note that according to the Midrash, Terach changed too. He did teshuva, repented, and made his way together with Avraham. Parents can learn from, and be inspired by their children too.