Even an Imperfect First Step Is a Good Thing

abraham pic Our tradition teaches us a lot about the father of our great patriarch, Abraham. And little of his early life is positive.

Terah has been variously described in our texts as wicked, an idolater, the owner of an idol shop, a supporter of the evil King Nimrod, and indeed a father who turned his son in to the king for failing to be true to pagan ways.

What an awful dude!

Yet, how do we explain the words in Genesis 11:31: Terah took his family from Ur “to move to the land of Canaan; but when they reached Haran, they settled there.” This text seems to suggest a departure, that Terah decides to leave his home, a land of riches and comfort, to go forth to the land God would beckon Abram (later Abraham) to seek.

Had Terah seen the error of his ways? Had he repented? Had he turned in favor of his son to protect him from the King’s continuing prosecution? Or was there something else, too, at work here?

Along with all the pejorative charges against him, our tradition sees some sort of change of heart and being within Terah. The change may be sufficient to explain the later recognition in the Text that Abraham would one day join his father after death in the World to Come.

All we know from Torah is simply what we just read, that Terah “took” his family and “left” Ur “to move to the land of Canaan; but when they reached Haran, they settled there.”

Is it possible that Terah also heard the call of the One God to go forth from his land to a new land to which we believe the Divine had led Abram?

Is it possible that Terah, perhaps through teshuva, had turned away from past wrongdoing to come closer to the righteousness that characterized his ancestor, Noah.

Finally, is it possible that while Terah could not in his life time make it all the way, he stands for all people who are open to a spark from God and will one day make it to the World to Come?

I submit Terah heard God’s call and acted on it. Whatever Terah’s failings and however short he came, his turning and acting toward God should merit our attention.