Bnai Avraham

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First Recorded Convert:

The Gemarah states that Avraham was the first Ger - as the verse reads: “Neduvai amim neesofi am Elokai Avraham”- "The nobles of the nations gathered the nation of the G-d of Avraham" (Tehilim 47:10). Avraham's name is mentioned exclusively (Yitzchok and Yaakov are omitted) for – Avraham was the first convert”

The commentators explain the word “Nudiv” is understood as the noble hearted one. Avraham was the first convert whose heart volunteered him to recognize his Creator. All the subsequent “Neduvai Amim” - noble hearted ones of the nations, followed Avraham's lead in converting to Judaism.

The Talmud is not a history book, recording the fact of the first convert is to convey an eternal message. Namely, Avraham Avinu introduced the institution of conversion.

Conversion is that unique remarkable power of severing all previous family and cultural ties and start anew.

The Sfas Emes comments on the above Gemarah, an essential prerequisite for the conversion process is the total detachment of previous ties. As the Torah states: "G-d said to Abram, "Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Bereishis 12:1).

Additionally, Ruth, her conversion came about when she detached herself from her social milieu and forged ahead with an eternal bond with her beloved mother-in-law. Likewise, the pilgrims agreed to leave their homes for the festival in order to ask in the Divine Presence on the Temple Mount . That virtuous quality is identified as “Bas Nudiv”, the "daughter of the noble," referring to Avraham Avinu who blazed the trail for “Lech Lechu”10

The Malbim explains that the objective of Avraham's departure was to distance him from the influences, the culture and the opinions of his kith and kin, since a person is deeply affected by his surroundings.21 The words “Lech Lechu”- go (for yourself), allude to a double exodus, a physical departure from the land of his birth as well as a spiritual withdrawal from the culture and from the emotional attachments of his father's home.

Only after this withdrawal did he merit to receive a greater spiritual elevation.

Even the fact that Lot accompanied him part of the way a continuation, therefore, of the family bond - constituted an obstacle to Avraham's ascent to a greater level of holiness.

For that reason, explains the Or Hachayim, it was only after Avraham parted ways with him that he merited to receive Divine revelation.21

That ability of Avraham to break away from, his land and his family can be attributed to the fact that he became a “Briu Chadushu”  - a new being, achieving total detachment from his past. Some commentators explain that Nimrod's act of throwing Avraham into the furnace at Ur Kasdim purged him of the past, and of any lingering imperfections in his father's house. When Avraham was thrown into the furnace, his emergence intact was a moment of transformation. He had now become “Briu Chadushu”   and began a totally new existence.

A revolutionary principle that Avraham introduced into the world was that of to

“Koach hahischadshus” - the power, or capacity, for self-renewal. Conversion is a process of uprooting oneself from his past and become spiritually and, so to say, physically a new person. The Gemarah therefore states: “Ger shenisgair kekuton shenolod dome” - "One who has converted is likened to a newborn child," enabling him to begin his life afresh. Avraham became for all later generations the supreme exemplar of self-transformation, undertaken with eagerness and enthusiasm.22

The Rashbam lends support to this definition by explaining the passuk: “Vehisborachu bzarecho kol goiai haaretz”- "And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves through your offspring" (Bereishis 22:18). The word “venivrechee”is derived from the term “makiv” grafting, symbolic of the fact that one can graft himself onto a new family tree and in this transformative become a "new fruit," a new member of the Abrahamitic family. Avraham the architect founder and patriarch of the “Jew” ideology is credited for this supreme establishment23

Each and every one of us carries as his inheritance a fragment of the '"Avraham gene," as explained by the Chiddushei Harim. That quality - the courage and strength to persevere during times of hardship and persecution - is imperishable and will never forsake us.24

From this principle, concludes the “Or Gedalyahu”, we learn an important lesson; Each and every individual needs to realize the strengths and talents that he possesses, and although they may have been in a state of dormancy, it is his mission in life “Lechotzia min hakoach al hapoel” to actualize his potential, a remarkable lesson for growth and achievement, by its adherence, we link ourselves closer to that holy genetic quality of our forefather, Avraham. It is essential that we realize, allowing our innate qualities to atrophy, we court impotence, compromising the essence of our human quality.

The very drive and impetus that empowered Avraham and Sarah to break away from their
land - and, above all, their families - in order to start a new life help to account for their tenacity
in the race of the immense challenges that accompanied that separation. They are the exemplars
of the successful actualization of the ‘Koichos”- those inner strengths and talents that each one of us is blessed with at birth.    

 

 

 

 

18 Atara LaMetech p. 20 - 24

 

 

19. Sfas Ernes al Hashas - Chagigah 3 A

 

 

20.Malbim Bereishis 12.1-2

 

 

21. Or HaChaim Bereishis 13.14

 

 

22.Yevamos22A

 

 

23 Bereishis Rashbam 12:3

 

 

24. Chiddushei Harim Bereishis 16:1

 

 

 

 

Above excerpt is a part of unpublished commentary on Chumash by Rabbi Shlomo Stern. We use it with his permission for which we express our highest gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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