This week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha (Gen. 12:1-17:27) picks up the story of Abram and Sarai, who were introduced to us at the end of last week’s parshah. At that time, Abram’s family had left Ur of the Chaldees and settled in Haran. Now, Abram receives the word from God: “Go forth from your country, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).
But wait a moment. Abram can’t leave his birthplace; he already has. The whole family has moved from his birthplace, Ur of the Chaldees, to Haran. In fact, we were told at the end of last week’s parshah, they had originally set out from Ur for the land of Canaan, but instead they got as far as Haran and settled there.
God is asking Abram to go on one of the greatest journeys of history; a journey that would become the beginning of the Jewish religion, as well as the other great religions that would take their origin from Judaism. He will end up in Canaan, where his family had originally planned to go, but he will go there without the idols and pagan practices of his family. Rather, he goes at God’s bidding, on a sacred journey.