All Around Abraham

The Abraham narrative in Bereshit (Genesis) focuses, naturally, on Abraham. But around the father of the monotheistic faiths are several secondary characters, illuminating him and fascinating in their own right. Let’s take a look at the family that he leaves behind, the nephew that joins and leaves him, the wife that does not bear children and the wife and child he is forced to give up. We will consider the local political and cultic powers that he deals with. What does a close reading of the Tanakh tell us about these people? How do later traditions understand them?

All Around Abraham Welcome

We all know Abraham, but how much thought have we given to the people that surround him?  These secondary characters can be fascinating in their own right.  They also give us a vivid sense of the environment that Abraham functioned in, the challenges he faced, the events that he shaped and that shaped him. Who […]

The Mishpucha (Family)

The Mishpucha (Family) As has been seen from the beginning of the human history in the Torah, the family unit is very significant.  We enter the Abraham narrative through his family.  Who were his forefathers?  Who were his immediate family?  And why is all of this so important?  If we assume that no one comes […]


Sarah How does one define the place of this woman whose challenges in life, unlike the theological ones facing her husband, seem closer to our human understanding?  She is beautiful, for which she pays a heavy price.  She is called a matriarch, yet she seems to have spent most of her life longing to be […]


Hagar By the order of narrative this class should be reserved for Lot.  However, having just studied Sarah it seems incomplete without studying Hagar – the Other Woman in Abraham’s house hold. The following video sets up the background for the course: When the Other is The Mother (Gen 16) In her attempt to fulfill […]


Lot Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is the character that provides us with a glimpse of what Abraham could have become.  Like Abraham he was wealthy.  Apparently, like Abraham, he received a respected status in the community despite having arrived from outside.  He does trust the word of God, as we see when he escapes the destruction […]

Kings All Around

Kings All Around Bereshit (Genesis) 14 While most stories about Abraham are stories involving individuals, we cannot ignore his involvement with the political and cultic powers around him.  In our session about Sarah we saw his encounters with kings outside of Canaan (if Gerar, Abimelekh’s kingdom on the southern Mediterranean shore can be considered outside […]


Ishmael We have met Ishmael before, but only as an attachment to Hagar.  Now let us examine what was his life like with his father, Abraham, and others around him, and how does the Torah view him. The Name As we have seen in Midrash Shem, the name a person bears may reflect both the […]


Isaac יצחק Isaac is the missing child through most of the Abraham narrative.  He, the child of Sarah, is the longed for heir.  Ishmael may have dulled Abraham’s sense of longing, but probably intensified Sarah’s feelings.  Isaac’s arrival in the household throws the place into turmoil and brings the feud between the mothers to a […]

The Servant

The Servant Until now we have focused on people with their own agenda surrounding Abraham.  Now let us look at the person who is perhaps closest to Abraham himself:  His trusted servant, the butler. Part I – The Biblical Text His Name: We hear about Eliezer in 15:2.  Who is he?  Why does Abraham assume […]

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