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Rabbi Jon's Reflection on This Week's Torah Portion


Completing Our Ancestors Journeys

A short reflection on NOACH (Genesis 6:9-11:32) 


Our enemies chant the refrain, “you Jews are intruders, invaders and colonists in the land of Palestine, the land you call Israel." 


By painting us as foreigners, it becomes an easy jump to claim we are agents of apartheid with no rights to the land. With the simplest study of the history of Jews in this region this claim is proven manifestly incorrect. Whether you follow Jewish history through a lens of the bible, archaeologyor sociology, you will learn that we have always inhabited this land. Yes, sometimes we were in charge and lived in great numbers and sometimes we were driven out leaving a few survivors to carry on our faith in our homeland. But, we have been present since the Biblical era. 


Biblically, we knew this land was key to our survival. In this week’s Torah portion, we read (Genesis 11:31-32),  “Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah came to 205 years; and Terah died in Haran.


Terah, the father of Abraham, set out for Israel. He was not commanded by God. He decided to journey all on his own. It was not Abraham who began the journey. It was his father. Sadly, Terah did not make it there but his vision started his son Abram dreaming of a new land. When God comes to him in the next parasha and says “Lech Lecha” – “Go to the land I will show you,” Abraham has already taken the trip halfway there. He knew this dream was part of his heritage. By Biblical estimates this was in circa 1855 BCE. This is the biblical date for our entry into the land. 


If you’re looking for an archaeological date, we have historical proof of the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and artifacts that speak of the Kingdom of David. Every day, earlier and earlier archaeological identifications are made, creating proof of our HISTORICAL presence.


Even with forced exiles, we never fully left the region and our numbers only grew and grew starting in the 1880’s (For more historical information, sign up for my spring adult education class focusing on Israel’s History from 1880-1948).  One continually surviving community has lived in the mystical city of Safed.  Its history is continuous. In 1948 Israel was officially recognized by a United Nations vote, making it part of the community of nations. It has made offers numerous times with the Palestinians for a Two State Solution, all of which have been refused. Even today, Israel searches for an answer that will let all parties live in peace without the fear of terrorism.


Our timeline includes too many stories of our ancestors attempting to return home only to be held captive in shtetls and foreign lands due to obstacles that were insurmountable to their dreams. Our hearts, as Jews, have always been in Israel. Our ancestors, like Terah, got us close and often inspired future generations to complete the journey. Time and time again we have taken similar journeys from our diaspora communities. 


Today, we have a nation that is filled with Jews. Today, we are well represented in our homeland. Today, whether we personally can fulfill the goal of our ancestors is no less important than supporting the community that survives there. It is our job to speak out against ignorance by studying our history from multiple perspectives so that we can recognize ignorance when it is presented to us as fact. You can be a Jew and a Zionist from any address. 


May we be like Terahinspiring future generations to love the land of Israel as fully as humanly possible. 




  • God decides to cause a flood that will destroy the world, sparing only Noah's family and the animals that Noah gathers together on the ark. (6:9-8:22)

  • Life starts over again after the Flood. The Noahide Commandments are listed, and God uses a rainbow to make a symbol of the first covenant. (9:1-17)

  • People start to build a city and the Tower of BabelGod scatters the people and gives them different languages to speak. (11:1-9)

  • The ten generations from Noah to Abram are listed. (11:10-30)

  • Terah leads Abram and the rest of his family toward Canaan but stops short and settles in Haran (11:31-32)


For more on this Torah portion from the URJ go to



Tue, July 16 2024 10 Tammuz 5784