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Who was Abraham?

by Rabbi M. Hecht


Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Before there was Prometheus, there was Abraham. Abraham was a very firm, very friendly man whose raison d’etre was to spark a social revolution. He ran the first known soup kitchen in history, offering free food and great moral direction to all who came. He was a leader. He was a lone wolf. He was a writer and motivational speaker. He believed in himself. He believed in people. He believed in G-d. He believed in change. He believed in the world. He believed in changing the world. He was also the first Jew. And unlike Prometheus, Abraham actually existed.

At age three, little Abram (G-d changed his name to Abraham later) was a bit too smart for his own good. See, growing up in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq/Kuwait), there was a lot of idol worship going on—as a matter of fact, Abram’s dad Terach ran an idol shop, buying, selling and trading what amounted to lawn ornaments. But Abram asked the logical question we all ask as kids: “Where did we come from?” So he tried to figure life out. He thought the sun created the world—it’s big and powerful and domineering, after all. But the sun’s not around at night, realized Abram—so maybe it’s the moon. But the moon’s not around by day. Abram looked at the stars and mountains and valleys and oceans and rivers and plains and sky and earth and people leading crazy lives and the space that surrounds it all, and eventually concluded there had to be a Highest Intelligence behind the scenes.

When Abram became an adult, he did something revolutionary. Terach had Abram mind the store one fine morning... and returned to find every single stone statue smashed to smithereens—except one. This large little fellow still stood in the center of the chaos, holding a real mallet in his rocky hand.

“AAAAAAAAA-BRAAAAAAAAAAM!” Terach fumed. “Who did this?!”

“It was him!” smiled Abram.


“Him. The one in the middle. Holding the hammer thingy. Can’t you see?”

Terach looked at his son. Abram looked back. A few long, silent seconds passed. “Abram,” Terach finally sighed, “He’s a statue! He can’t move—he can’t do anything! I MADE him, for crying out loud!”

“My point exactly,” responded Abram.

Needless to say, Terach had a lot to think about.

TAGS: abraham


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Posted by: Eric Worsham, Lima, Ohio, 45806 on Jan 29, 2005

I just read your commentary on Abram. Here's my problem; Most of the information you've given cites no biblical reference. I desire to know more about Abram and why God chose him to be the father of many nations. But I cannot place any credence on your information without it referencing scripture (divinely inspired).

Therefore I will not be able to use your site for research, unless it parallels the bible.

Please respond with references.

Editor's Comment

This article is based on the Midrash. See What is the Midrash?


Posted by: Helen Lerner, West Bloomfield, Mich on Feb 11, 2005

What happened to Abraham's son Ishmal and the slave Haggar after Sarah made them leave her tent?

Editor's Comment

They both eventually returned. Ishmael was one of the two lads who accompanied Abraham and Isaac to the "Binding of Isaac," and after Sarah passed away Abraham married "Keturah," which our sages tells us is another name for Hagar.

Abraham and Sarah

Posted by: Anonymous, Spring Valley, CA on Mar 06, 2006

From were did Abraham and Sarah originate?

Editor's Comment

Mesopotamia (current-day southern Iraq/Kurdistan).


Posted by: Anonymous, miami, fl, usa on Nov 25, 2006

Who was avrahams mother?

Editor's Comment

Amathlai the daughter of Karnebo (see Talmud Baba Bathra 91a).
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Son of the Patriarch Abraham and half-brother of Patriarch Isaac. Ancestor of many Arab tribes.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.