Topics in Genesis -8

Become Abraham’s Ally

Rabbi Zvi Aviner



The Torah describes a group called Abraham’s Allies.

Such were Aner Eshkol and Mamra (14, 13),

who accepted the seven Noahide commandments

and supported Abraham in his war against

the four kings of the north who kidnapped Lot.




The major tenants of Abraham’s faith



To become Abraham’s ally, one has to identify with Abraham’s faith.

Let’s recall that all the stories about Abraham

revolve around THEFT, Noah’s Forth Commandments.

We can paint all of them with the same color.


There are many sorts of THEFT.

One may steal property, money, land, people and

even intellectual property such as tenant of a religion,

claiming them to be your own.  Today we’ll learn about such THEFTS.


Abraham is struggling against all these types of THEFT

He even introduced a new name for the CREATOR –

the OWNER of the Heavens and the Earth.

Hence staling is not just a social crime but

an act against God’s ownership.  He also thought people

to give thanks to the Owner for using anything

good and beautiful in this world.  He received the Eighth Commandment – Circumcision – as an emblem of the Owner in our flesh.



What does it take to become an ally?



The truth is that it is difficult to become Abraham’s ally

One need not only to accept his faith

but also share with him the same historical goal and fate


For instance – When the United States became an ally of Britain

in the struggle against Nazi Germany,

the USA helped Britain to achieve a victory the otherwise

wouldn’t be achieved at all.



So is with Abraham. 

Realizing that his goal was to change Mankind’s faith and heart

to elevate Mankind from being good to very good,

He knew that the must have allies in his enormous task


But to be an ally of Abraham you need to share with him

his faith, and his goals, as well as his leadership.

And that is hard to find.


Eshkol, Aner and Mamreh for instance were faithful allies,

till the war against the Four Kings of the North

who came down to subject the Five Kings of the South

and establish an Empire, something that Abraham hated.


Abraham and his allies overcame the mighty northern kings,

wbut Aner, Eshkol and Mamreh   took part of the loot

while Abraham rejected it.  Henceforth they would not be qualified

anymore to be his allies



So was Malki Zedek the King of Salem

Greeting Abraham when he returned victorious from the war

he blessed Abraham in the name of the

Supreme El Who Owns the Heavens and the Earth



Here he used Abraham’s vocabulary, referring to G-d as the Owner,

yet he failed by calling G-d Supreme El,

Implying he also believed in inferior El,

Like G-d’s Wife, Son, Daughter,

something that can’t go together with Abraham believe

in G-d’s Oneness. He was unqualified to be Abraham’s ally



 Anther character in the stories is Avimelech the King of the philistines

Would he become Abraham’s ally?



 We met Avimelech last class as kidnapping Sarah.

The story ended well saying that Abimelech returned Sarah to Abraham

and also gave him many gifts.


The Torah would return to Avimelech, but only after telling us about

the Birth of Yishmael and Isaac,

and about the binding of Isaac on Mount Moriah.


Yishmael ended up living in the desert outside Canaan.

but Isaac stayed with Abraham in the Holly Land.


Now the Torah returns to Abimelech




Abraham Living with the Philistines





21: 22

And at that time Abimelech and Pichel the chief of his army  

Told Abraham saying God is with you in everything you do


And now swear to me in God, if you lie to me and to

my great-grandchildren and grandchildren,


As the grace that I have done with you, you will do with me,

And with the land which you lived there

And Abraham said I’ll swear


The First oath

Rabienu Bahyee points out that this is the first oath in the Torah.

This is important, since as a rule, wherever an important concept

appears the first time in the text, there we will find what the Torah thinks of it –


So, what is the oath?

Rabbeinu Bahyei says that the oath puts the Almighty a party in the covenant.

This , on one hand, assure that HaSheM would scrutinize anyone who violate the treaty.

On the other hand, being a party, HaSheM would help to implement  the covenant,   making  it a reality.


That scrutiny, says the Midrash, found Avimeltech not a true ally.

His secret goals were un pure, seeking a secondary gain.

He was therefore not yet qualified to become a true ally of Abraham

Joining Abraham in his historical journey


On the other hand, HaShem would ensure that the covenant

with Avimelech would be implemented

But that would take several steps



Seven Sheep

The Torah continues



And Abraham reproved Abimelech about

the well of water stolen by Abimelech’s slaves




The well had been dug by Abraham’s servants and stolen by the Philistines.

That could be enough for Abraham to depart,

like he had departed from Lot.

However, Abimelech takes responsibility –



And Abimelech said, I did not know who did this thing,

nor did you tell me, nor did I hear anything wrong today.


A similar answer to what he had said about Sarah, when he abducted her.

Abraham accepts the apology –


And Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave Abimelech

and made both covenants.  And Abraham set the seven sheep alone


And Abimelech said to Abraham what are these

seven sheep that you have placed alone?


And he said:  that you will take the seven sheep from my hands

for I will have a witness because I dug this well


So, he called that place Beersheba because

that’s where they both swore

And they made a covenant in Beersheba,


and Abimelech and the chief of his army arose,

and they returned to the land of the Philistines


The Midrash says that the water well presents Torah

and the seven sheep present Noah’s Seven Commandments.


Thus, Avimelech gets closer to be called Abraham’s ally.

That was important to Abraham, since he Torah tell us

what Abraham did next:



And he planted an Eshel (tree) in Beersheba

and called there in the name of HasheM the Master of  the world


Rashi says: by that tree, Abraham called HaSheM’s Name over the whole world.


He planted hotels and kitchen on crossroads to feed the poor for free, asking them to bless HaSheM who owns the world.


Without the permission and support of Avimelech,

Abraham wouldn’t be able to plant these hotels

Everywhere in the land.


Avimelech also accepted Abraham as the future owner of the Land

Including the Philistine’s Land. The verse says:


And Abraham dwelled in the land pf the philistines many years


According to Rashi, Avraham lived there for 26 years,

longer than anywhere else.



Now tte story of Avimelech continues with Isaac.



Isaac and Avimelech




 25: 26


And there was a hunger in the land

In addition to the first hunger that had struck in the days of Abraham

And Isaac went to Abimelech, king of the Philistines to the city of Grar


And HaSheM appeared to him, and he said,

Do not go down to Egypt, dwell in this land

which I will tell you


Reside in this land I will be with you and I will bless you

For to you and to your seed I will give all these lands

and I have established the oath

Which I swore to Abraham your father



Let’s analyze these words.


Rashi explains that Isaac was forbidden to leave the Land of  Canaan

because he was considered a sacred offering on the altar on Mt Moriah

and as such, he could not leave the borders of the Land of Israel.


 Dwell in this land –

HaShem says to Isaac:  dwell, schchon in this land,

bring the Shechinah to this land.

Shchon, says the midrash, also means establish neighborhood, with borders.


When the Shechinah enters our Six Days from Heavens – She dwell first in the Holy Land.   There, Her holiness establishes discreet circles of holiness around Her, each with discrete border.


Thus, as She comes into the Holy Land

the Holly Land becomes elevated in holiness

compared to other lands, such as Egypt


And within the Holy Land,

Jerusalem becomes elevated in holiness

compared to the rest of the Holy Land


And withing Jerusalem,

Mt Moriah becomes holier than the rest of the holy city,

and within Mt Noriah, the site of the binding of Isaac

becomes holier than the rest of the Mountain,

now called the Holy of Holiness site.


Thus, as the Shechinah enters the Holy Land,

there is a restriction of Her Holiness compared to Abraham’s vision of Her.


For Abraham, HaSheM’s Holiness is as presented in Genesis Chapter One –

in the Heavenly Court residing all over Earth, therefore he could go down to Egypt at the time of hunger.

Her Grace, likewise, is unlimited and unconditional.


But for Isaac, as the Shechinah descends deeper into Earth

to Dwell on Mt MorIah,  a set of holiness borders is created,

a set of neighborhoods with distinct borders,

in which Isaac is confined to live .


As the Shechinah gets closer to us,

She required us to respect Her Holiness


This was the new envision of the Shechinah by Isaac.

It was the new well, new water.

Would Avimelech accept it and support it?


HaSheM continues saying to Isaac –


And I’ll multiply your seed as the stars of heaven

and give to your seed all these lands (of G-d)

and I will fulfill the oath that I’ve sworn to Abraham your father

and all the nations of the Earth shall bless themselves by your offspring


because Abraham obeyed my voice,

and observed my safeguards,

My Commandments

My Decrees

And My Torah


Hence, we learn that the Seven Commandments of Noah have

many  categories, Hashem’s Voice, Safeguards, Commandment, Decrees and Torah

It took Jacob, later, 16 years to study them all in the Torah Academy of Shem




Let’s note that HaShem says that the presence of the Shechinah

In the Holy Land would be beneficial to all Nations, all Mankind






  Isaac in Gerar  


At first, Avimelech almost stumbles over Rebecca

the same way he had stumbled over Sarah,

showing he had not progressed much.


yet he holds himself back from hurting Rebecca

and allows Isaac to dwell peacefully in Gerar

He overcomes Adultery and Bloodshed.


And Isaac sowed in that land,

and in that year, he found a hundred gates, and HaSheM blessed him


And the man grew and became bigger till he became very big

And he had sheep and livestock and a lot of work,


This prosperity was a blessing from G-d,

To show the Philistines that joining Isaac would be in their own favor.


Donation of the Tenth

As he became wealthier, the Midrah says ,

Isaac instituted a new practice of raising one tenth

Of your income to charity.

By this he “restricted Abraham’s unlimited grace”

And made it a law, a reality.


All that should have enkindled in the Philistines

a support to Isaac, but instead –




Jealousy and Rejection

And the Philistines envied him

And all the wells dug by his father’s servants in Abraham’s time

 Were shut up by the Philistines and they fill them with dirt


That would happen again and again in all the diasporas of the Jewish people in history.  They would become economically successful.  I could enrich the local population yet the result was jealousy and rejection





The Philistines not only closed Abraham’s well

But filled then with dirt, to erase his memory OR OWNERSHIP.


Some say that they returned to idolatry

Other say they erased Abraham’s name, developing their own waters, their own brand of faith



And Abimelech said unto Isaac,

Go away from us, for you have become so powerful from us – “


They accused Isaac for stealing their wealth.   How else could he become so wealthy in such a short time?


And Isaac went away from there

and graced in the stream of Gerer and sat there


And Isaac dug again the wells that were dug

in the days of Abraham his father and sealed by

the Philistines after Abraham’s death

And he called them names as his father called them


Isaac restored the memory of Abraham

But in addition, he dug also his own wells


And Isaac’s servants dug in the stream

and find found there a well of fresh water


What happened to Isaac’s fresh wells?


There were three of them.


But the shepherds of Gerar quarreled with the shepherds of Isaac

saying the water belong to us.

And he named the well Eshek quarrel,  (robbery)

for they quarreled with him


And they dug another well and fought over it too

 So he call it hate Sitnah


Those two wells occupy a large portion in the Midrash

One line of thoughts takes the notion that each well

Presents an attempt by Isaac to teach the local his new brand of faith.


The first well is called Eshek for they quarreled with him

Saying the waters are ours

Meaning – the faith you’re preaching is already ours.

We don’t need you.



It resembles the Arabs of Arabia in the seventh century,

where the local Jews (city of Yathrive) taught the local Arabs children

the Torah, especially the book of Genesis

and the seven commandments of Noah.

Including four prayers a day.



But then Mohammed came and declared that

he had learned the Torah from the angel Gabriel

and not from the Jews.  In fact, he claimed to gave

the original, true faith – true waters – whereas

the Jews hold a corrupt version of the Torah.


In his so-called original version –

It was Yoshmael on the Altar, and Moses was a Muslim.


Thus, like the Philistines, the Arabs have performed

Eshek, stealing intellectual property.


The other well, called Sitnah, hatred,

hints to Christianity who also began by an

attempt to teach the nation

The Seven Commandments (plus Jesus)

And ended up rejecting Judaism

Claiming to have replaced Israel


The Third well, however, was different.

The philistines “did not quarrel about it”

And he called it Rehovot, wide streets,

To designate a new avenue of support.


Hence there is a hint that besides Islam and Christianity

No other similar movement of stealing Abraham’s faith

would appear. Let’s prey that this vision would become true,


On the contrary – the Torah hints here that the new Noahide Movement

would grow along Isaac’s vision, not claiming the waters to be theirs.



Three Temples


Another but similar explanation is that the wells refer to the Holy Temples

That stand on Mt Moriah where Isaac had be placed on the Altar


Each of the two Temples was destroyed by Nations

Who were not Abraham’s allies.


The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians by quarrel , Eshek,

The Second Temple was destroyed by Rome with hate , Sitnah


Now what about the third well, Rehovot, a Third Temple?

The Torah says


And he relocated from them and dug another well

And they did not quarrel over it

And he called it Rehovot, Wide Streets

And said:

 For HaShem has granted us ample space

And we can be fruitful in the land


The third well represents a Third Temple,

that will be built by Isaac]s descendants,

, while the Philistines stands by  not interrupting

They do not quarrel with him any more


Yet, even such a progress was important,

Since as its name implies, it will open a street for a wider world

A larger community of Mankind supporting peacefully a Third Temple.


The result will be that Mankind would be fruitful and multiply

with no more wars and bloodshed



But there isa hint for  another step after the Third Temple –  

the Torah continues:


And he went up from them to Beer Shevah

 And he set up there his tent

And Isaac servants dug there a well


The new well did not have yet any water in it.


And Abimelech went to him from Gerar and his manor,

and Pichel, the minister of his army.


And Isaac said to them: why did you come to me

and you hated me and sent me away from you?


And they said to him, we saw that HaSehM  is  with you,

So we said:  Let the oath between ourselves

Between you and us

and let us make a covenant with you: If you do evil with us!


Just as we have not harmed you and just as we’ve done only good to you

 and sent you in peace

Now you, O blessed of HaSheM


They wished to renew the treaty

and become Abraham and Isaac’s allies


And he gave them a feast, and they ate and drank

and got up in the morning, and they swore as a man to his brother,

and Isaac sent them away

And they went from him in peace


From supporting peacefully and standing by,

Avimmelech stepped up and joined  Isaac and Abraham

with happiness becoming their true allies



The result  –



And on that day the servants of Isaac came

and told him about the well they had dug

And they told him we found water

And he called it shiva, therefore,

the name of the city of Beersheba to this day




Isaac’s water poured out freely from the new well

Watering the entire world

Henceforth Abraham, Isaac and Bnei Noah

would travel in history together

bringing the Shechinah into the world

reaching to goal of becoming Very Good

ready to enter the next stage – Eternal Sabbath