Surely, this Parsha is one of the richest in the Torah. Abraham is called out of obscurity in Ur — Where is Ur, by the way? It’s in the extreme south of the great culture areas due south of Hinevah, ESE of Ebla and Ugarit. It’s in Sumer, yes, we were Sumerians, with a history six thousand years in that region and a recorded history by that time. For a modern idea, go to Kuait and turn left and up. You can’t miss it.
Ur wasn’t the bushes, or to put it in Uiddish terms, Yechupetz. It was a large settlement close to to other large towns and cities, buy it’s very far from where the first hearers of this book were sitting, in David’s court. God commands Abraham, who, with his father and kids, herds and household goods and his brother, Lot and his gesheft all take off for a place to the north which crosses some very dry and challenging real-estate, bound for Canaan.
They settled on land busy with other people, which seems to be a feature of all Jewish history. Any wide-open space is sure to be full of moabites as soon as the tent-pegs are set.
Tamara will be singing about circumcision. Better the girl should sing than the boy, but this circumcision is the key, I think, to much that has gone before. It is, after all, a symbolic ‘blood’ sacrafice a metaphoric acknowledgment that God controls human fertility. Sarah wanted a child, but it was Hagar who had one. Abraham wanted open land, but other tribes controlled the lands to which he was directed. Circumcision seals the compact between God and his adopted people.
Our edition of Etz Chaim says that in the haftorah the words seed and Abraham were what suggested that passage of Isaiah to share the reading. This tells us that the Rabbis that part of the story most necessary to be understood. Isaiah is living hundreds of years later than the adventures covered by the book of Genesis, but the problems of population and fertility are the same. At the time the Haftarah was being spoken, refugees from Babylon returned, hoping to repopulate the decimated land.