By Rabbi Steven Bayar
This week’s portion is about Noah. While the flood is the most obvious part of this text and the part that grabs all our attention throughout the ages, the most significant part of the parsha occurs at the very end, long after Noah’s death.
The last several verses of the portion tell the entire story of Terah, the father of Abraham. It seems that Terah began a journey from what was then Ur (Babylon) to Canaan (what will be the land of Israel). But, he never completed the journey. The text, with sparse detail, informs us that Terah’s son died on the journey. He stops where he is and never ventures forward again.
The portion of Noah ends here. The beginning of next week’s parsha tells us the story of Abraham who is called by God to journey from where he is (with his father Terah) to a “land that I will show you.” We, the readers know that this will be the promised land of Israel.
What a fascinating text. If it is read as one unit, it almost seems that Abraham is completing the journey that his father began. Is it possible that God called Terah as well and that Terah began the journey but could not finish it? Does Abraham finish the task his father was given?
In true fashion the text raises more questions than it answers. But, if we explore the possibilities we can see so many parallels to our own lives; we exist in a chain of tradition where we are taught that “we are not obliged to complete the task but we are not allowed to desist from it.” Is Abraham the one chosen by God to be the progenitor of the Jewish people or was he the only one who succeeded in the task God may have given to many?
Or, to put it another way, are we all messengers for the same task? Do we all contribute to a greater whole? I would say “yes.” That is the essence of community — we all work together — some are honored to finish and some are honored to lay the foundations.