Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lech Lecha 1 - Rejected Heirs

One of the underlying subplots of P' Lech Lecha seems to be Avraham's "failed heirs". By this term, I refer to the people who seem to be in a position to carry on the Abrahamic legacy, but, for one reason or another, fade out of the scene.

1) "The souls they made in Charan". Rashi quotes two opinions on who these people are, whether they are servants whom Avraham and Sarah (and Lot) had acquired or whether they are people whom they brought closer to the way of God. Although the second is somewhat less literal, perhaps Rashi suggested it due to the difficulty of why these people warranted mentioning. The fact that God promised Avraham that he would be blessed implies that he was not so startlingly wealthy upon his departure from Charan that he would have such a large retinue of servants who would warrant mention on their own. Nonetheless, these people are never mentioned after the original departure from Charan. Perhaps at some point in Avraham's journey within Canaan, they abandoned Avraham.

2) Lot. The only member of Avraham's traveling party leaving Charan who merited mention on his own. Even if we allow that he chose to leave his homeland with his grandfather, uncle, and sister rather than staying with his other uncle and sister, when the family split a second time, why did Lot choose to continue traveling, rather than to stay with his grandfather? If we are to look upon Avraham as any sort of a giant for his choice to leave everything that he knew in favor of following God's word, one must also allocate praise to Lot, who put his trust in the prophet of God at the same cost. Nonetheless, in chapter 13, Lot gets into a politicoeconomic argument with his uncle, which causes him to finally cut his ties to the family. Lot has a somewhat heroic, albeit very significantly flawed, role in ch. 19 in S'dom, in which he shows his allegiance to the Abrahamic ideal of hospitality, but shows a mindboggling callousness towards his daughters' safety. The last we hear of him is as the ancestor of two other nations, whose origin story is less-than-reputable. Even more shockingly, these nations become known for their shunning of the idea of hospitality (Devarim 23:4-5), which raises certain questions about the legacy that Lot passed on to them. It always struck me as interesting that Lot's name is Aramaic for "curse", which creates the possibility of Lot being a sort of bizzaro-Avraham.

3) Damasek Eliezer. Avraham openly acknowledges his status as leading candidate for heir in ch. 15, but God promises that he will not be the ultimate heir.

This post has been sitting in my draft pile for a while now, and I'm not going to be thinking any more about it until next year, so I hereby throw it up onto my blog, half-written, perhaps to be added to next year.

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