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Abraham's Early Life

by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales

  

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Very little is told in Chumash of Abraham's early life. Except for a few hints, here and there, hardly anything is told in the Torah of the father of our nation until be was seventy five years.

Such an important event as Abraham's defiance of Nimrod, the king and leader of all the heathens and idol worshippers of his time, which led to Abraham's being thrown into a burning furnace, is only hinted in the Torah. The full story of this and other important events in Abraham's early life was only told by word of mouth, from generation to generation, until the details were final1y recorded by the Sages of the Talmud in various Midrashim. Some of them we have already told you in our previous TALKS, and we will here fill in other interesting details about Abraham's early life, until he reached the age of seventy five.

Abraham (who was first called Ab­ram) was born in the year 1948 after Creation. (According to one tradition he was born in the month of Nissan; according to another, in the month of Tishrei). His father's name, as you all know, was Terah, who was seventy years old when Abraham was born. Abraham's mother's name was Amathlaah. The town in which he was born was called Cutha, in Mesopotamia. In the Torah, Abraham's birthplace is called Ever-haNahor ("Beyond the River").

Terah was an idol worshipper, like his king, and their chief god was the Sun
Abraham was the tenth generation removed from Noah, being a direct decendant of Shem, (Noah's son), the father of all the "Semitic" peoples. When Abraham was born, Shem was 390 years Old, and his father Noah was 892 years old, Abraham was 58 years old when Noah died, and 110 years old when Shem died. These are important facts, for, as we shall see later, Abraham spent many years in the house of Noah and Shem, and received instruction from them. Thus he learned all the details about the Flood from the very men who built the Ark and survived the Flood. (Noah knew Methuselah for many hundreds of years, who in turn knew Adam for many hundreds of years, which means that Abraham received first hand information about everything that happened since the very first day of Creation!).

Terah, Abraham's father, was the chief officer or minister of the first king mentioned in the Torah, the mighty King Nimrod of Babylon (also known by its former name, Shinear, and the land of the Chaldees). Terah was an idol worshipper, like his king, and their chief god was the Sun.

We have already told you what a close brush with death Abraham had on the very night of his birth. For Nimrod's stargazers told the king that Terah's newly-bom son would one day be a danger to his throne. Nimrod ordered Terah to send him the baby, to be put to death. Terah, however, outwitted the king. Instead of sending his real son to the king, be sent the baby of a slave who was born on the same night as Abraham, and Nimrod killed the baby with his own hands, believing that he was now safe from the threat.

The baby Abraham, with his mother and nurse, were hidden in a cave for ten years.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Tishrei
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Abraham
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.
Sarah
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.
Noah
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
Canaan
The land which G-d promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Named after the Tribe of Canaanites who dwelt there at the time. Eventually, when the Israelites conquered the land in 1272 BCE, it was renamed the "Land of Israel."
Chumash
The Five Books of Moses.
G-d
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.