The story goes that Terah, Abraham’s father, was an Idol-maker. (My favorite Hebrew word for Idols is gilulim–roll–you roll ‘ern in and you roll ‘ena out.) The Moslems believe that Terah carved Idols in Ur. It’s in the Koran, but it isn’t in the Torah, and I don’t believe it. Ur was a big city, a great city for Idol-makers, with ezy terms and a great lay-away plan.
But the kids were grown and married and one had died and it was Terah, not Abraham, who left Ur to go to Haran. That would be selling out in Denver and moving to Antonito. Terah died in Haran, across the Syrian Desert from Ur.
It was in Haran that God spoke to Abraham–go to yourself–as to say ”ﬁnd yourself.” Leave the homeland–but it wasn’t Abraham’s homeland, and your father’s house to a land that I will show you. The family had already been uprooted and knew what it was to sever ties with a past.
They went into Canaan. The move was God inspired, but not God directed, because they then went to Egypt and then Abraham went back to Canaan and then to Hebron. It was there, for the ﬁrst time, that God told the childless man that his descendants would be like dust, like sand, like stars–countless, but also moving, and spread and blown across the heavens and over the earth.
Go someplace and do something. Why is it easier to go than to stay? Why is remaking ourselves so important that it requires a change of venue? All the way to Evergreen, Colorado. Our congregation mirrors the life of the ﬁrst real Jew. We’re almost all drawn from someplace else, and we come, some God directed and some not–as Terah wasn’t, to move here, to go to ourselves, to give ourselves of our substance and selfhood, to succeed, to fail, to suffer, to endure, to survive, and more than survive, to express ourselves and feed the deer that call the mountain lions that eat our dogs.
Max Dimont, a Jewish historian, calls us Jews the surfriders of history. I don’t agree with that either. A surfrider uses the wave but isn’t part of it. Yes, to the sense of excitement, the peril, the triumph and the wipe-out, and even to the sharks. But we’re not in it for the sport–to a Jew, life is not a game. Marmonides in a speedo–no, thanks.
Now, we see a problem. Abraham has moved, partly for God’s reward. God had said it once in Gen. 12.1, again in 13.16, 15.5, 17.6, 17.16—ﬁve times in all, that he would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the sand and the stars. Then he tests Abraham with the Akeda, and sets him on the road again, this time up a mountain on a three day journey to a place of high importance. Go someplace and do something. I think the something was a demo of what He, God, wanted to say, not a sacriﬁce at all. The text uses the word Olah, which we read means burnt offering, but Olah has the
same root as Alah, Aliyah, to go up. God has promised Abraham sand and stars. Perhaps Abraham knew it was Aliyah, not Olah, which is why that arguing Jew doesn’t argue, that he was there to provide, a demo, a visual aid about ending the common sacriﬁce of the ﬁrstborn. My evidence for this is those ﬁve promises and years of silent communication of many kinds. don’t think Sarah knew what the plan was; she left Abraham and died apart from him. Did Isaac know? Isaac saw the knife in his father’s hand. Was that the test?