Lech-Lecha by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Lech-Lecha: The Testimony of Nachor, Brother of Avram

by Rabbi David Hartley Mark


Welcome to my humble tent, Stranger! Sit, and my wife Milcah will fetch you some water to wash your feet. Then, she will bake flat fire-cakes—won’t you, My Dear?—and serve us cakes, milk, and cheese. Roast lamb? With dairy? Ugh! No, I don’t think so.

Oh, don’t thank me, Stranger—such is the hospitality that my father, Terach, taught me, and my brother, Avram, as well. Have you heard of Avram? No? Well, then: let me share with you what I hear of him and his exploits, both from messengers (for we do love to stay in touch, my brother and me) and rumors. We keep as best a network of communication, here in the wilderness of Canaan. Some days, I wonder why I left that mighty City, Ur of the Chaldees, to come to this desert land.

“A land flowing with milk and honey,” you say? Oh, please. The only flowing milk is that which we take from our goats, and I have yet to see any honey—either from bees or dates, it’s no matter: none exists. The Promise of Adonai, you say? Yes, I understand that He revealed Himself to my brother, but I have yet to see any sort of theophany. This Mysterious God appears to whomever He wishes, not to just anyone, and certainly not to me.

Avram, Avram! What a curious fellow he’s turned out to be—nothing like when we were youngsters together. Why, then, Poppa Terach would bear him, or me, or the two of us, if we ever got out of line. It is true that Avram was the better-behaved of the two of us; I tended to be the wayward son—almost a prodigal, to speak truth. Even when I grew of marriageable age, I refused to marry the girl that Poppa had picked out for me—one Hagar bat Mitzri, an Egyptian wench who came around the house, sometimes. Poppa went so far as to inquire of her parents, and found them of suitable social standing: her father had a good job in the administration of Pharaoh Amenemhet I. But I refused, as I said: I was entirely in love with my little Milcah, and, truth to tell, got her with child before Poppa could object.

And so, we were married. Poppa thought that, perhaps, a change of scene would straighten me out, and rid me (and him) of my wild ways. So he left Ur, with its cosmopolitan temptations, and we entered the Wilderness of Canaan. I resisted at first, but realize now that the Wilderness is the place where a man can find peace, where he can come to terms with his Inner Self.

That certainly seems to be what happened to my brother, Abraham. I may have found peace, but he claims to have discovered an Invisible God—can you imagine it? Were it not for my teraphim, my household gods, I would be lost. They are made of clay and stone, and I love to dandle them in my hands and ask them questions—not that I ever get answers; or, if I do, I believe they emerged from my own heart and mind, and not from their stony selves.

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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