A Splendid Torch

Oct 28th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations (George Bernard Shaw).”

This week we are introduced to the story of a man who changed history; he was a traveller, he insisted that marriages remain within the extended family, he was willing to sacrifice his child to his god:

“This is the account of Terah’s family line. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot.  While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.  Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah. Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran (Genesis 11:27-32).” The Midrash adds that Terah was born circumcised. It all sounds like someone else we know.

Terach’s son, Abraham, certainly managed to do all his father did, and to do it all in his own way. However, when Joshua, towards the end of his life, renews the covenant between God and Israel in Shechem, he indicates that Terach’s role is more than fathering Abraham:

“Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.

Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt (Joshua 24:1-4).” We mention Terach as part of the Haggadah story. There seems to be more to him than we assume.

In a portion that includes the tale of the Tower of Babel, when all were united, we are introduced to a man who wants to make his own way: As soon as his children were married, “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan.” Terach wanted to light a torch that would, “burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” Something happened. Terach stopped. “But when they came to Harran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.” Terach wanted to make his own mark on the world, but he knew only that. He did not know what mark to make. He stopped in Harran, and there he died.

Terach was not his son, Abraham, who did know how he wanted to change the world, and yet, he is still remembered, because even an unfulfilled desire to move out on his own, to make a mark on the world, was sufficient to inspire Abraham to become the Patriarch of Israel.

Terach’s torch still burns in the souls of his descendants motivating them to move ahead and attempt to light their own torch. It was Abraham who taught us how to fuel the torch, and directed us in how to move without stopping in Harran.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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