How Unsettling!: Noah 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: When do you prefer to be a leader? When do you prefer to be a follower? How do both leaders and followers add value to society?

At the end of the story of Noah’s descendents, we discover that a man named Terah is content establishing roots in a new place – but his son Abram will want to travel even farther:

The Pitch: “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah came to 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.” – Genesis 11:31-32

Swing #1: “How often is it that spiritual awakening comes even to a person who is not on a high enough level of awareness to be purified and to ascend higher. Instead, in the middle of the journey, his lower instincts overcome him, render him unable to move on. There there are the pious and the righteous ones who, as we read in Isaiah 40:4, set their hearts on, ‘making the rugged level, and the crooked places a plain.’ They clear away every obstacle from the way of the Ruler who ascends to the mountain of Adonai. They do not remain frozen in the middle of the journey. Just this is the difference between Terah and Abraham. For while there was awakened in Terah the clear vision to set out for the Land of Canaan, he changed his mind in the middle of the journey. … But Abraham, our forefather, was not content to rest. He did not get cold feet in the middle of the journey.” – Moshe ben Amram Greenwald

Swing #2: “Haran dies; Abraham and his surviving brother take wives; then Terah assembles the entire clan and decamps for Canaan. They arrive in the ancient crossroads of Harran, near Syria, where they settle. Far from random, this travel pattern is consistent with the lives of pastoral nomads, who traversed the region with herds, passed time near settled lands, then migrated to other places. … [But] Abraham is not a settled man, or a wandering man. He’s a combination, who embodies in his upbringing a message he will come to represent: the perpetual stranger in a strange land, the outsider who longs to be the insider, the landless who longs for land, the pious who finds a palliative in God for his endlessly painful life.” – Bruce Feiler, Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths

Swing #3: “Why did the Torah say that Abram left Haran after his father died? The fact of the matter was that Terah lived another 60 years, but the Torah did not want Abram tarred with the accusation that he had left his 145-year-old father, instead of caring for him. So the text said that ‘Terah died,’ for sinners [like the idol worshipper Terah] are said to be dead even when still alive.” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: Both Terah and Abram are nomads, yet Abram’s taste for discovering new places far exceeds that of his father. According to our commentators, what character traits lead to this divergence? Why is Abram able to take the extra step? What characteristics enable us to take the extra step to pursue our dreams?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We invite you to participate in adult education at our synagogue. We hope to have an Adult B’nai Mitzvah class this year; it will meet Tuesdays at 6:45PM. Judaism 101 takes place at 8:00PM. Please join us!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of leadership, we once again turn to Casey Stengel, who remarked: “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”

Shabbat Shalom!