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It's no wonder that going against the grain is part of the essence of being Jewish. Abraham was the world's first Jewish radical.


Jewish tradition says that Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, was the epitome of greatness, and from him we learn lessons to help us as we live our own lives. Let us examine why.

God said to Abraham, go for yourself from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you ... (Genesis 12:1)

This command is puzzling. At this point in the Torah, Abraham has already left his land and his birthplace. So why is God instructing him to leave a place that he has already left?

The answer lies in understanding that Abraham's move is more than physical. God is asking him to make a journey not just of the body but of the soul.He is asking him to leave the comfort of the assumptions he holds about the meaning of life.

God is asking Abraham to re-think his values and his goals and decide whether they are in fact his or simply the result of the environment in which he happened to be born.


Think for a moment about when and where you were born and raised. Under different circumstances you could just as easily have been born in Switzerland or Poland or Africa. And here you are today. What if today were 1960 or 2160?

In a different place or time we would probably be very different people, with very different values. So would our children.

In a different place or time we would probably be very different people, with very different values.

What would stay constant? What are the values that shape our direction and establish our goals? These values go beyond the country listed on our passports or the era that we are born into.

A child in the 1960s encountered philosophies of immense freedom and self-expression. Today the world has swung back to be more conservative and structured. What is politically correct today was not 30 years ago and will not be 30 years from now.

Judaism says that trends are just that -- they come and they go. Our challenge is to take the time to look beyond current fads and trends and embrace those critical values that affect us in a deeper, everlasting way.


When God asks Abraham to leave the land of his birth He gives the instructions in a curious order. First He tells him to leave his country, then his city, then his family's home. Normally when one is leaving the order is reversed -- you leave your home, then your city, and then your country.

This tells us that when re-examining our values, it's easiest to begin with the values of our country, for it has the least impact on us as compared to our community, or our home. The order is not geographical, but personal.

What we believe in, what we stand for, and what we are living for should be well thought out, not dependent on where we happen to reside or what is in fashion. This thought process takes effort, and sometimes a little pain.

What we believe in, what we stand for, and what we are living for should not be dependent on what is in fashion.

The message of Abraham is that all of us must stop, and think to ourselves: "What do I really believe in? What are my goals in life?"

It is the greatness of Abraham that he heard this message from the Almighty, and went forth on a quest of self-discovery that still reverberates today.

Adapted from Lori Palatnik's Remember My Soul. Buy the book from

January 22, 2000

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Kganki, January 24, 2009 11:05 AM

Great ..i love it

Thank you lori The article is very infomative and brings light the truth that we have to know ourself inline with what God has already said in the Torah or his word Thank you again

(7) john, January 23, 2008 5:00 PM

abraham the first jew

great article

(6) Perry Keefe, June 21, 2006 12:00 AM

We need Peace in the middleeast for the sake of all.

I enjoy reading what interest,s me,and some besides.It,s so nice to communicate with Israel thru Aish!I never thought I,d be able to!Hopefully the fighting and argueing will stop with palestine and neighboring Nations.So many years I,ve watched this so many beautiful people have died,and that,s not to say the little baby boys and girls that think nobody cares.I,m from America and this hatred has got to stop, for the sake of all people, this is not fun to watch people die like this, and some are so young.I,ve always regarded Israel and the middleast.I guess I,ll just say a prayer for them all that they put away their hatred that is blinding them.I just want to say hello to all at aish!I enjoy aish it,s good for me and I feel priviledged and grateful that this is a website all the way from Israel to America! God-Bless

(5) Gene, November 10, 2005 12:00 AM

The comment "What we believe in, what we stand for, and what we are living for should not be dependent on what is in fashion." is awesome. So many times we think that what is considered 'normal' is right, but only God is true and right

(4) Alan, November 6, 2005 12:00 AM


Very fine article. Concise and worth reading. Thanks.

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