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The World of Abraham

The World of Abraham

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Published by pouch12
By understanding the character of Abraham, the "proto-Jew," one can understand what Jews are all about.
by Rabbi Ken Spiro
By understanding the character of Abraham, the "proto-Jew," one can understand what Jews are all about.
by Rabbi Ken Spiro

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Published by: pouch12 on Apr 04, 2013
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By understanding the character of Abraham, the "proto-Jew," one can understand what Jews are all about.

by Rabbi Ken Spiro

Jewish history doesn’t happen in a vacuum. No people’s history happens in a vacuum. So before we take a closer look at the first Jew – Abraham – we must first zoom out and get a little understanding of where Abraham fits in the world of his time. Abraham appears at a period of time commonly known as the middle period of the Bronze Age, around the 18th century BCE. Early civilizations are characterized by the metals they predominantly used and the middle period of the Bronze Age in the Middle East covers the period of time from 2200 BCE until 1550 BCE (from about 4200 to 3550 years ago). It is in the Middle East that civilization began, and this is where Abraham was born when it was already well underway.


When we say civilization. up to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in today’s Iraq. literature. The Nile is an incredible river. About 5. priests and warriors. The three great rivers contribute mightily to the fertility. People had time to do more than constantly search for food. not just a few people living in a few huts. and to plow the land to grow crops. in turn. of this area. This meant they could raise animals to eat them or to use them for their milk and their hides. led to the creation of cities and to social and political development. there was a surplus of food. in an area called the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent The Fertile Crescent encompasses the area that starts in the south at the Nile Delta in Egypt. That.” 2 . Without the Nile. 3% of Egypt was arable land. then to the creation of art. we are talking about sophisticated arrangements of people living together. began in the Middle East. In ancient times. which led to population growth. Also the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers are mighty rivers. and consequent desirability. and the area between them historians have dubbed Mesopotamia. Egypt would be a desert. 97% was desert. and extends through the Levant (the middle section where Israel is located). scholars. They started specializing in different types of labor – you had craftsmen.700 years ago in the Middle East. science and the like. the largest river in the world. not hunter/gatherers or simple agrarian settlements. which is Greek for “in the middle of two rivers. there occurred a dramatic evolution of humanity from mostly nomadic hunter/gatherers – people who spend their whole day looking for food – to people who were able to domesticate livestock and crops. they run from Turkey into Iraq. Once this occurred. The earliest civilizations in the world. according to most opinions.

3 . until eventually there came about a system of three “letters. according to the Western calendar.” Later those pictures evolved into more abstract symbols which stood for phonetic sounds. you drew a square and that stood for “house”. The Book of Genesis states that when God created the first human being – Adam – He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. which now comes so fast we can’t keep up with it. the creation of Adam coincides with the development of civilization. From the Jewish perspective the ability to express oneself – whether through writing or speech – personifies what human beings are all about.” can also be translated as “a speaking soul. Also see Targum Okelos.” 1 It is interesting to note that. but we can be fairly sure that the first hallmark of civilization – writing – originated in the Fertile Crescent. It began with pictographs. “living soul.) Writing was the single greatest human invention and is the hallmark of civilization. Writing was a tremendous invention though we take it for granted today. You drew a stick figure and that stood for “man”.There is some debate among scholars whether the first civilization sprang up in Egypt or in Mesopotamia (specifically in the section of Mesopotamia called Sumer). (To this day.” The Hebrew phrase l’nefesh chayah. Hebrew is based on a three-consonant root system. 1 Genesis 2:7. All the technology and knowledge of today depends on the collective accumulation of accurately transmitted information. you drew an oval and that stood for “eye.” each representing a sound and combining together to make a word that conveyed an idea.

Egypt as a civilization lasted close to 3. So our story begins in Ancient Mesopotamia. Persians. And it was also a logical place for Abraham to appear. the Assyrians and finally the Greeks. Babylonians. all of human history would have been different. Greeks.000 years. we see this land changing hands many times as it was conquered by each new rising civilization – the Assyrians. the Muslims. Thus. no deserts – and it was a very desirable fertile land. If he were born an Eskimo or a Native American. This is an incredibly long period of time for a civilization to survive. 4 . This tumultuous place is where Jewish history begins – at the bottom of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. 2 In the 3. Mesopotamia had no such natural defenses – no mountains. Romans and then. he had to be at the center of civilization. in the cradle of civilization. It was a giant flood plain sitting in the middle of the great migration route of many ancient peoples. of course. because if Abraham’s destiny was to change the world. Egypt is unusual because it is surrounded by desert and so it is virtually unapproachable. which has been conquered and destroyed dozens of times. it was very difficult to invade. This was the logical place for civilization to begin in terms of the development of agriculture and culture. Any conqueror who came out of Asia or out of Europe usually set foot there. where Abraham’s journey also began. Compare that to the Land of Israel.000 year history of ancient Egypt. it was conquered only three times: by the Hyksos. Why did Egypt survive for so long? Because of its isolation. and then it became a Greek colony.Crossroads of Civilization Of the two earliest civilizations that developed in the Middle East.2 It took the Greeks – specifically Alexander the Great – to finish Egypt off.

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