GOD CALLS Abram to himself, then some things happen. He lies about his wife, God promises him a son, he lies about his wife again, there’s a son, finally, but not the promised one, and then some other things happen. The Wiki resources on this parashah are amazing. Here are some more. And yet more. God calls Abram to himself and then some things happen, among them are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: things 1, two, and III. The sons of Abram (later, Abraham) are, as the camp song said, “many”. A blessing for all nations, indeed.
Clicking through some of the resources, it’s interesting that fabricated backstories (outside of the Biblical material) look for reasons that Abram was qualified for this calling. He was righteous, or he was already worshipping God, or his family were all doing so. (For how many generations?) But God calls whom he will – righteous or not.
לֶךְ-לְךָ Lech Lecha tells the beginning of Abram’s story, called out of Ur of the Chaldees to be a blessing for all people. Lech Lecha is a sort of verbal one-two punch because repeating the same word twice it means GO! YOU GO! But, as the Rabbis point out, it also means “go to yourself“. Abram had to find himself in order to understand God or, more to the point, had to come to God in order to find his true self. Yet as noted in an earlier post, this is remarkably echoed in Jesus story of the Prodigal Son who “comes to himself” (Luke 15:17) in a far distant land and has to come home to his Father.
I’m not suggesting that Jesus used the name of a Torah Portion as part of his teaching (although I wouldn’t put it past him) nor does Luke use the same Greek Phrase as the LXX. Luke 15:17: Εἰς ἑαυτὸν δὲ ἐλθὼν. LXX Genesis 12:1 ἔξελθε ἐκ τῆς γῆς σου. These phrases don’t overlap at all except (possibly) in meaning. Is the Dominical Saying perhaps intended as an echo of the Torah though? Would Jesus have been trying to get his audience to say, “Hey… wait a minute. That makes me think of something else!”
Ambrose, Augustine, Bede, and others say the Elder Brother is the people of Israel while the prodigal is the Gentiles. Cyril of Alexandria disagrees but for markedly antisemitic reasons. I want to take the Elder as the Jewish People, but I want to note other implications.
God called Abram to come to himself – and through him all his children. Meaning that, by Meditation on God’s Teachings (including the later Torah), it was possible for the Jews to live structured lives according to God’s wisdom and thus to be a light to the Gentiles. A week before he was just another Pagan worshipping fire or whatever they did in Ur. Then God calls Abram out of the Chaos of the Pagan World into the light of the Divine Logos. This logos, though, is not limited. He is also spread throughout the world. There is no corner of being where the Divine Beingness is unknown, but only more or less hidden. To find your true self, your own logos, in its fullness you must go through God. To go on the quest for yourself is to – ultimately – go on a quest for God. You have to be called on that journey (like Abram) for it to go deep, but you can start out (by Grace) on your own.
The prodigal “coming to himself” in a distant is the Gentile Version of the Call of God to Abram. Then some things happen. His journey of repentance, the embrace of his father, the gift of his true identity (robe, sandals, and a ring) all happen after he is called to himself.