- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 8, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat. Listen to it as a podcast HERE.
We often recommend the restaurant where we recently dined, which doctor we saw, what movie we liked, and even where to vacation. We rave about it.
Our enthusiasm helps to convince another where to go or what to see. We express that we are fans and can testify to whatever reason we have offered so that others do, go, and see.
This week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha, is about Abram. God tells him to go forth to the land that God would show him (Gen 12:1). And then, it described how Abram made his preparations to leave:
Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the wealth that they had amassed, and the persons that they had acquired in Haran; and they set out for the land of Canaan. (12:5)
Rashi, the 11th century commentator, explained the curious phrase, “and the persons (which could also be translated as souls) that they had acquired in Haran.”
[THE SOULS] THAT THEY HAD GOTTEN (literally, made) IN HARAN – The souls which he had brought beneath the sheltering wings of the Shechinah. Abraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women and Scripture accounts it unto them as if they had made them (Genesis Rabbah 39:14).
The Talmud also expounded upon the verse:
“And the souls that they had gotten in Haran” (Genesis 12:5), which is interpreted by the Sages as referring to the men and women who were brought closer to the Torah by Abraham and Sarah. Therefore, it was at this point that the Torah began to spread throughout the world. (Avodah Zarah 9a)
Abram and Sarai did not know about conversion. That is a worldview of Rashi. And yet, there is something in how they could have drawn other people into their understanding of the idea of a Divine Being. What might they have said to express their enthusiasm about God? How might they have raved to convey that others should believe? Did they proselytize as Rashi suggests? Did they ensure that the Torah and thus the burgeoning faith of Judaism would take hold throughout the world as the Talmud imagined?
We will never know. What Abram and Sarai did demonstrate was that they were willing to bring others into their religious belief system.
If the tradition teaches that they could do it then, I would like to think that we could do something similar in our own day.
When we speak positively about a Jewish experience; when we rave about our synagogue, when we declare with positive delight, the meaning we derive from engagement in Jewish life, others listen and are drawn in. We may not “acquire” souls like Abram and Sarai, but we may be helping to grow Judaism and to ensure this tradition remain strong and vital.
Join together for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Live stream HERE. Riverway Shabbat (formerly Soul Food Friday) will be at 7:00 p.m. Torah study begins at 9:00 a.m. beginning with a short service and Torah reading.
I look forward to learning of your reactions and reflections HERE.