Crossing The River – Avraham and Politics Lech-Lecha 5777

Crossing The River – Avraham and Politics

Lech-Lecha 5777

I was once asked to give a theological and historical picture of Judaism to a mixed school assembly in a Catholic School – in 5 minutes!!


With absolutely no pre warning either.


I decided to focus on the three separate names that Jews have been known by: Ivrim, Israelites and Jews.


Ivrim comes from this week’s Sedra, when we are introduced to Avraham the Ivri, named such because he ‘crossed over’ the River. “Vaya’avor Avraham B’aretz” 12:6.


This became a feature of Avraham’s life; the need to cross over to the other side.


But not just geographically; he had to cross the theological and moral river as well. He stood on the opposite side to the moral and religious beliefs common at that time. But this was his mission, his job in this world; to make a stand for what was right, even if it meant standing alone on the opposite side of the raging rivers.


As our father and ancestor, as the progenitor of our faith and religion, he is obviously a role model and compass holder for each and every one of us throughout time and history. And it is this aspect of Judaism and the name of Ivrim that we often need to embrace, and probably never more so than today.


The world has become a very interesting, and nervous place. Political norms are not being followed, and the supposedly accepted world order is not necessarily being adhered to. At times we may find ourselves on the ‘other side of the river’, either by choice or by design. We may be the lead ship making the waves or possibly just caught up in the current, but whichever way it is, the responsibility is still the same.


I am not here to declare one way or another, not for the political change movement in our own country and definitely not for the recent events over the pond (although I have heard that Queen Elizabeth II has declared the end of the American experiment, and will be imminently resuming leadership over her colony!).


However, what I would like (and feel it is my right and obligation) to comment on, is the method and behaviour being employed in trying to achieve that change.


Avraham was successful, the name Ivri stuck, not necessarily because of his message per se, but more due to his modus operandi. He knew that what he was saying was radical, the ‘people’ were ready (possibly) for change. The old world order was being turned on its head, and what he was preaching was going to upset the apple cart, but the way he went about his mission was with dignity and respect. Avraham was different in his message, but more importantly in his delivery of that message. He was an ‘Ivri’ not just in content but also in context and behaviour.


You don’t make people’s lives better, their monetary, physical and psychological wellbeing, simply by worsening that of those around them. You don’t make people feel better, just by belittling others. You can’t raise a man to greater heights, by pushing down his peers and betters.


To make the world a better place, you can’t just minimise, belittle, ignore and marginalise those who you disagree with.


So my dear friends, in this week when we receive our first title: Ivri, the first name given to the Jewish Nation; I call on you to stand on the opposite side of the river, to be different. To swim against the flow and challenge yourself to call for change, but not necessarily for a change in the actual politics, but more for the tone of those politics.


To respect the other. To see that they to, are on the other side of the river. To recognise the Ivri in each person.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Dovid


{The names of Israel and Jew, represent very different outlooks and responsibilities, more about them another time}.