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Terah and Diaspora Jewry

October 5, 2013

(Genesis 11:31-32) “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there… and Terah died in Haran.”

From later on in the narrative we see that Abram’s surviving brother, Nahor, also accompanied Terah to Haran, and there he had many children and grandchildren, including Laban and Rebecca. Hazal fill in the missing part of the narrative – what happened to Abram and and his brother Haran (with a Hei) in Ur of the Chaldees as well as why Terah saw fit to leave the place. I would imagine that the father of the most revolutionary visionary in the history of mankind would have been in slight awe of his prodigal son. The fact that he initiated the family’s migration to the Holy Land shows that he 1. must have been inspired by his son’s message and that 2. even before G-d’s revelation to Abram  and the promise, people were aware of the specialness of the land.

Phil Chernofsky, of Torah Tidbits fame, is want to mention that the patriarchs represent the three types of Israeli Jews. Abraham represents those who were born abroad but eventually come to oive in the land, Isaac represents those who spent their whole lives there, and Jacob represents those who were born there, but eventually came to ive and die abroad.

I would like to offer that the Torah include the details of Terah’s life to teach us about a fourth category, a group of people who are, unfortunately, not on the levels of our patriarchs: those who are born abroad and know that the land is special and to be given to G-d’s chosen ones, and even make some effort to get there, but ultimately never make it here. W’ hameivin yavin.

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