Faith begins outside our comfort zone

God’s challenge to Abraham is His challenge to every one of us.

Abraham visited by angels 521 (photo credit: Creative Commons)
Abraham visited by angels 521
(photo credit: Creative Commons)
The most significant figure in the Hebrew Bible is Abraham.
Claimed by all three major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – Abraham is considered the first monotheist and a faithful servant of God. In Isaiah 41:8 God refers to Abraham as “My friend.”
At the age of 75, Abraham receives a revelation from God to leave it all behind and go to an unknown land. In doing so, he would receive fame and progeny, and people would be blessed by blessing him.
Biblically, there is seemingly no justification for God’s selection of Abraham. We know nothing of Abraham’s life except of his lineage, his marriage, his wife’s inability to conceive and an attempted move from Ur of Chaldeans to Canaan (Genesis 11:26-32). There is no character trait that the Bible speaks of that stands out as the reason Abraham deserves those rewards.
By contrast, the Bible says of Noah that “he found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Moses at least champions the cause of his persecuted brothers in Egypt, defends the daughters of Jethro and tends his flock before being selected as Israel’s leader.
Furthermore, Genesis 12:1 – “God said to Abram: ‘Leave your country, your birthplace and your father’s house...’” – has an unusual order. God should have said to Abraham: Leave your father’s house, birthplace and country. In addition, doesn’t leaving your country already imply leaving your household? This is further exacerbated by Joshua (24:2-3) saying to the people that Abraham along with his father and brother worshiped “other gods” – an unlikely qualification for receiving a revelation from God that one is to be part of creating a holy nation that will be a light unto the world! Outside of the biblical text, early commentators attest to Abraham’s self-discovery of the one God despite living in a world filled with paganism.
The Book of Jubilees, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and others see his move from Chaldean society – a nation that believes stars control human destiny – toward Canaan as a sign of him rejecting the idolatrous practices of the day. One of the scriptural allusions to this is Isaiah 51:2: “For when he was but one I called him; I blessed him and made him many.” God’s call to Abraham is due to his standing against the norms of society in its worship and accepting God in his life. Therefore, commentators also look at the Book of Joshua (24:2-3) in positive terms, singling out Abraham as the family member that did not continue the pagan family worship path.
In most English renditions of the Genesis 12:1, the translation of the verse is: “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.’” However, these translations leave out a key word from the Hebrew – lecha (for you). The translation should be: “God said to Abram, ‘Lech lecha (Go for yourself)…’” The expression “Lech lecha” also appears in the account of the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:2). God begins that test by saying: “Please take your son...” It is not an order but an opportunity with a choice. Will Abraham rise to the occasion and through this test gain higher spiritual heights? Likewise in Genesis 12, Abraham is not commanded to leave his roots but is given a choice to continue his outreach work beyond the comforts of home. But this will require shedding all influences of his birthplace and eradicating the pagan influences of his own home.
God’s challenge to Abraham is His challenge to every one of us. It is not just about going physically from one place to another but about making a spiritual movement within oneself.
Without a destination, Abraham does not take a “leap of faith” but a “leap of action” to do something without understanding why. In Judaism, we believe that our forefathers’ experiences are a foreshadowing of our own. This “leap of action” into the unknown influenced Israel’s national consciousness at the Sinaitic revelation to declare: “We will do, and we will understand” (Exodus 24:7).
May we be inspired by Abraham’s leap of action and tap into the incredible growth he experienced as well as the blessings he received. •
David Nekrutman is the executive director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Efrat. Comments should be directed to