This week’s portion, Lech L’cha, focuses on Abram (Avram), who will be re-named Abraham (Avraham). Abram is seventy-six (76) years old when Hashem approaches him. He tells him to leave his home and go “to a place where I (G-d) will show you”.
G-d also tells him that He will bless whoever blesses him and curse those who curse him. He will be the father of a people who will multiply like the sands on the shore of the sea and the stars in the sky.
This was the first of ten tests that G-d will put him through to verify that he is worthy of being our first patriarch and “Father of a multitude of nations”. So Abram takes his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, whom is taking care of since his parents died, and his servants and wealth. Abram passes through Canaan and G-d shows him that he will give his descendants that land.
There is a famine in the land and Abram and his entourage go to Egypt where there is plenty. While there, he tells Sarai to pretend to be his sister instead of his wife (actually, she was the daughter of his brother). Sarai was beautiful, and Pharaoh wanted her as his wife, and Abram was fearful that they would kill him so they could take her. G-d creates a plague and Pharaoh figures this out. He releases Sarai and gives Abram gifts of cattle and gold and silver and they all leave.
Abram and Lot have a lot of animals and their herdsmen fight over which land is theirs. Abram tells Lot he can choose where he wants to settle, and Abram will settle far enough away so there is enough room for them to both thrive. Lot chooses to settle near Sodom and Gemorrah; even though the people are wicked, he likes the fertile land.
Lot ends up getting involved in the middle of a war between five kings of Sodom and Gemorrah (and three other cities) and four more powerful kings. Lot is captured. Abram musters 316 of his men and they rescue Lot.
Hashem then makes a covenant with Abram that he will give his children that land. Abram complains that Sarai is barren, but Hashem reassures him that he will indeed have an heir to carry on his legacy.
Sarai is concerned that barren and too old to have any children anyway. She tells Abram that he should have a child with Hagar, his mistress, who was given to Abram when he left Egypt. Abram and Hagar have Ishmael. Hashem reassures Abram that he and Sarai will have a son, Isaac (Yitzhak). The name Yitzhak comes from the Hebrew word for “laughter” because they laughed with joy about having their own son.
When Sarai is 90 and Abram is 100 years old, Sarai is pregnant. G-d then tells Abram he will no longer be Avram, “the father of Haran”, but Avraham, “the father of a multitude of nations”. Sarai will now be Sarah, “a princess”. Hashem tells Abraham to circumcise himself, his son Ishmael, who is 13, and all the male members of his household, and Isaac who is now eight days old. Hashem tells Abraham that all his descendants should circumcise all males at the age of eight days from on as a sign of the covenant between them.
It is also a negative commandment to not call them Abram and Sarai and a positive commandment to call them Abraham and Sarah.