Lech L'cha

Go Forth
Genesis 12:1−17:27
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)


12:1] The Eternal One said to Abram, “Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. 2] I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing. 3] I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4] So Abram went forth as the Eternal had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. 5] Abram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, all the possessions they had amassed, and the people they had acquired in Haran. They set forth for the land of Canaan, and they arrived in the land of Canaan. 6] Abram then traversed the land as far as the sacred site of Shechem, as far as the Oak of Moreh. (At that time the Canaanites were present in the land.)

7] The Eternal now appeared to Abram and said, “I am giving this land to your descendants.” Abram then built an altar there to the Eternal who had appeared to him. 8] From there he moved on to the hill country east of Beth El. He pitched his tent between Beth El on the west and Ai on the east. There he built another altar to the Eternal and called upon the Name of the Eternal. 9] And then Abram continued his journey—toward the Negev.

10] There was a famine in the land, and because the famine in the land was severe, Abram went down to stay in Egypt. 11] When he had almost reached Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, now—I know what a beautiful woman you are! 12] So when the Egyptians see you, and say: ‘This is his wife,’ they may kill me; but you they shall keep alive. 13] Please say then that you are my sister, so that on your account it may go well for me, and that my life may be spared because of you.”

14] And, indeed, when Abram arrived in Egypt the Egyptians saw how exceptionally beautiful the woman was; 15] when Pharaoh’s ministers saw her, they lauded her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s palace. 16] Through her it did go well for Abram, as he acquired sheep, cattle, and asses, male and female slaves, she-asses and camels. 17] The Eternal then struck Pharaoh and his household with severe afflictions because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18] Pharaoh now summoned Abram and said, “What have you done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19] Why did you say that she was your sister, so that I took her as a wife for myself? Look, now that it turns out that she is your wife: take [her] and begone!” 20] Pharaoh then issued orders and they drove him away, with his wife and all that he owned.

13:1] Abram went up out of Egypt into the Negev with his wife and all that he owned; and Lot accompanied him. 2] Abram was very rich, with livestock, silver, and gold. 3] On his [continuing] march, he hiked from the Negev as far as Beth El, up to the place where earlier his tent had been, between Beth El and Ai, 4] where he had first built an altar. There Abram called upon the Name of the Eternal. 5] Now Lot, who had gone with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6] so that the land could not support them both; they had so much property that they could not remain together. 7] A quarrel [now] broke out between Abram’s cattle herders and Lot’s cattle herders. (At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were inhabiting the land.) 8] Then Abram said to Lot, “There should be no quarrel between you and me, and your herdsmen and mine, for we are close kin. 9] The whole land lies before you! Pray part from me: if [you] go north, I will turn south; and if [you] go south, I will turn north.” 10] Lot looked around and saw the whole Jordan plain; all of it was well-watered, [this being] before the Eternal’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; [it was] like a divine Garden, like the land of Egypt as you get to Zoar. 11] So Lot chose the whole Jordan plain for himself and moved away toward the east. They parted, then, each from the other. 12] Abram stayed in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the plain, pitching his tents as far as Sodom— 13] whose people were wicked, hardened sinners against the Eternal.

14] The Eternal One now said to Abram, after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and the south, to the east and the west, 15] for all the land that you see I am giving to you and your descendants, forever. 16] I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth. Only if one can count the dust of the earth will it be possible to count your descendants. 17] Get up and walk about the land—its length and its breadth—for it is to you that I am giving it.” 18] Moving his tent, Abram went to dwell by the oaks of Mamre, in Hebron; there he built an altar to honor the Eternal.

14:1] In the time of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedarlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2] these [four] waged war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3] These all joined forces at the Valley of Siddim, now the Dead Sea. 4] For twelve years they had been subject to Chedarlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5] In the fourteenth year Chedarlaomer and his allied kings came and subdued the Rephaim in Ashterot-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriata’im, 6] and the Horites in their hill country of Seir as far as Eil Paran by the edge of the wilderness. 7] They then returned, coming to Ein Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), where they subdued the whole country of Amalek and the Amorites who dwell in Hazazon-tamar. 8] Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and arrayed themselves in battle formation against the [enemy] in the Valley of Siddim— 9] against Chedarlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.

10] Now the Valley of Siddim was studded with tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some tumbled into them, and the rest fled to the hills. 11] So they took all the possessions of [the kings of] Sodom and Gomorrah and their food, and they went off; 12] and as they went off they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, with his possessions; he was a resident of Sodom.

13] A fugitive then came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oak trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshkol and Aner, who were allied to Abram by treaty. 14] Hearing that his kinsman had been taken captive, Abram mustered his retainers, born into his household, 318 of them, going in pursuit as far as Dan. 15] At night he deployed himself and his forces against them and defeated them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16] He then brought back all the possessions; his nephew Lot, too, and his possessions; [he restored] the women, too, and the [other] people. 17] The king of Sodom came out to meet him after his return to the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley) from fighting Chedarlaomer and his allied kings. 18] Now Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine—he was a priest of God Most High— 19] and blessed him, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, 20] and blessed is God Most High, who has given your foes into your hands.” Then he [Abram] gave him a tenth of everything.

21] The king of Sodom now said to Abram, “Let me have the people and keep the goods for yourself.” 22] But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Eternal, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, 23] that I would take nothing of yours, not even a thread or a sandal-strap—you shall not say, ‘I enriched Abram’ 24] —except what the troops have eaten, and the share due the leaders who went with me: Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”

15:1] After these things, the word of the Eternal came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Have no fear, Abram; I am giving you an abundant reward as a gift.” 2] Abram then replied, “Eternal God, what can You give me, when I am going [to die] childless, and the heir to my household is Damascene Eliezer?” 3] Abram added, “Look—to me You have given no offspring, and one of my slaves is my heir!” 4] But the Eternal One’s word to him was, “That one shall not be your heir; rather, one who comes from your own body—he shall be your heir!”

5] Taking him outside, [God] said, “Turn your gaze toward the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them!” And [God] promised him: “So shall your seed be!” 6] And he put his trust in the Eternal, who reckoned that as loyalty in him, 7] saying to him: “I am the Eternal who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land as an inheritance.” 8] He then said, “Eternal God, how can I know that I shall take possession of it?”

9] [God] answered, “Bring Me a three-year-old calf, a three-year-old kid, a three-year-old ram, and a young turtledove.” 10] So he took all these and split them—all but the bird—in the middle, placing each half opposite the other. 11] Vultures descended upon the carcasses, but Abram chased them away. 12] Then, as the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and lo! a powerful dark dread was falling upon him!

13] [God] said to Abram, “Know now that your descendants shall be strangers in a land not theirs; they shall be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years. 14] But then I will bring judgment upon the nation they are serving; after that they shall go out with many possessions. 15] And you—you shall go to your ancestors in peace; you shall be buried in good old age. 16] The fourth generation shall return here, for not until then shall the iniquity of the Amorites be repaid.”

17] Now, when the sun had set and it was dark, lo—a smoking oven and a fiery torch were what passed between these pieces! 18] On that day the Eternal made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates, 19] [the land of] the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20] the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21] the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

16:1] Now Abram’s wife Sarai, who had not borne him a child, had an Egyptian slave named Hagar. 2] So Sarai said to Abram: “Seeing as the Eternal has kept me from bearing a child, have intercourse with my slave: maybe I will have a son through her.” Abram heeded Sarai’s voice. 3] Ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took her slave Hagar the Egyptian and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. 4] He came to Hagar and she became pregnant; and when she saw that she had become pregnant, her mistress became for her an object of scorn.

5] Sarai then said to Abram, “My wrong is on your head! I put my slave in your arms; no sooner did she see that she was pregnant, I became for her an object of scorn. Let the Eternal judge between us!” 6] So Abram said to Sarai, “Look, your slave is in your hands; do to her as you please.” Sarai then so afflicted her that she ran away, 7] and an angel of the Eternal found her at a spring of water in the wilderness, at the spring on the road to Shur.

8] [The angel] said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai: Whence have you come and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” 9] The angel of the Eternal said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her ill-treatment.” 10] The angel of the Eternal went on to say to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants; they shall be too numerous to count.” 11] And then the angel of the Eternal continued: “Look—you are pregnant and shall bear a son; call him Ishmael, for the Eternal has heard your affliction. 12] He shall be a wild ass of a man; his hand shall be against all and the hand of all shall be against him; he shall dwell in [permanent] opposition to all his kin.”

13] So she called the Eternal who had been speaking to her, “You are El Ro’i”—meaning by this, “Even here I have seen the back of the One who looks upon me!” 14] That is why that well—the one located between Kadesh and Bered—is called Be’er-lachai-ro’i.

15] Hagar bore to Abram a son, and Abram called his son whom Hagar had borne Ishmael. 16] When Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram, Abram was 86 years old.

17:1] When Abram was 99 years old, the Eternal appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai—walk along before Me and be pure of heart, 2] and I will set a covenant between us, and multiply you exceedingly.” 3] Abram fell on his face.

God spoke with him, saying, 4] “As for Me, here is My covenant with you: You shall be the father of a multitude of peoples. 5] No longer are you to be called Abram: your name is to be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a multitude of nations. 6] I am making you exceedingly fruitful, and turning you into nations; kings shall come forth from you; 7] I will establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you, for all their generations, an everlasting covenant: to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8] I will give you and your descendants after you the land where you have sojourned, the whole land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

9] God then said to Abraham, “As for you, observe My covenant—you and your descendants after you—in all your generations. 10] This is My covenant that you and your descendants after you are to observe: let every male among you be circumcised. 11] When the flesh of your foreskin has been circumcised, it shall become a sign of the covenant between us. 12] And in all your generations let every eight-day-old boy among you be circumcised, [whether it be] a homeborn slave or bought from foreigners, not of your own descent. 13] Let your homeborn slave and the one you buy be circumcised, so that My covenant may be in your flesh as an everlasting covenant. 14] An uncircumcised male who has not circumcised the flesh of his foreskin—that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

15] God then said to Abraham, “Sarai your wife—call her Sarai no more, for her name is [now] Sarah. 16] I will bless her and, too, I will give you a son through her; I will bless her and she shall become nations; rulers of peoples shall come from her.”

17] Abraham fell flat on his face and laughed, thinking: “Can a child be born to a man of 100? Can 90-year-old Sarah bear a child?” 18] Abraham then said to God: If only You would let Ishmael live [happily] before You! 19] But God said, “Nonetheless, your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, whom you shall call Isaac, and I will establish My covenant with him and his descendants after him as an everlasting covenant. 20] As for Ishmael, I have heard you. See, I have blessed him and made him fruitful and made him exceedingly numerous—he will father twelve princes; I will make him into a great nation. 21] But it is with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear for you at this time next year, that I will establish My covenant.” 22] Done speaking with him, God ascended, away from Abraham.

23] Abraham then took Ishmael his son and all his homeborn slaves and those who had been bought, every male among Abraham’s slaves, and on that very day Abraham circumcised the flesh of their foreskins as God had instructed him. 24] Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, 25] and Ishmael his son was 13 years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26] That very day both Abraham and Ishmael his son were circumcised. 27] And all the people of his household—the homeborn slaves and those bought from foreigners—were circumcised with him.


Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.