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Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sara 5779

Parashat Hashavua: Where Was Avraham Born?

Harav Yosef Carmel

When Avraham sent his servant to find a wife for Yitzchak, he instructed him to find her in “my land and my birthplace (moladty)” (Bereishit 24:4). While we know the servant went to Aram Naharayim, where Avraham’s brother Nachor lived, there is actually a dispute among commentaries as to where Avraham came from. Each explanation will have to deal with three other p’sukim in the past parshiyot.

In describing the life of Avraham’s younger brother Haran, the Torah says that he died in his birthplace, Ur Kasdim (ibid. 11:28). A second pasuk is the famous instruction of Hashem to Avraham to leave his land and his birthplace to go to a land that He would show him (ibid. 12:1). This relates to a third pasuk in which Hashem tells Avraham that He took him out of Ur Kasdim (ibid. 15:7). The latter pasuk seems to indicate that Avraham left Ur Kasdim for Eretz Cana’an, whereas Bereishit 12:4 says that Avraham left for Cana’an from Charan.

Rashi posits that Ur Kasdim was Avraham’s land, and that while he was in Charan when he was instructed to leave, that meant to distance himself further from Ur Kasdim; moledet in this context means one’s family, who were at the time in Charan.

The Ibn Ezra reasons that the commandment to go to Eretz Cana’an was given to Avraham when he was still in Ur Kasdim. This causes difficulties from the pasuk in our parasha identifying Aram Naharayim (=Charan) as Avraham’s land, as well as the description of Avraham leaving Charan.

The Ramban disagrees with both of the above. He claims that Avraham was born in Charan, and only his younger brother Haran was born in Ur Kasdim. Avraham was in Charan when told to go to Cana’an.

According to both Rashi and the Ramban, Ur Kasdim and Charan were far from each other. The former is in today’s Iraq, whereas the latter is near the border of Syria and Turkey. They posit that Avraham traveled first from Ur Kasdim to Charan and then was instructed to leave Charan to go to Cana’an.

We will suggest another approach, one which is based on the writings of Da’at Zekeinim Ba’alei HaTosafot. They posit that Ur Kasdim and Charan are bordering places within the land of Aram. According to this assumption, all the p’sukim fit in well, as both places are in Avraham’s land and birthplace. To reconcile the p’sukim, we must posit that Avraham went first from Ur Kasdim to Eretz Cana’an, but he was forced to return to the same region, except this time it was to the neighboring Charan. In Charan he was told to travel to an unknown place, just that it turned out to be the same Land to which they had previously gone.

It turns out that one of the differences between the commentaries is: how many times did Avraham go to Eretz Yisrael? According to Rashi, the Ibn Ezra, and the Ramban, it was one time. According to the Da’at Zekenim, it occurred twice. Let us hope that Jews from all over the world will make a permanent move to Eretz Yisrael.   

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