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Blog - Torah Insights

The (New and Improved) Brand Name

At a certain point G-d felt that it’s time to invest some thought into Abraham’s brand name. G-d understood that for Abrham’s message to catch on and change the course of history, a brand name must be carefully crafted.

So G-d changes Abraham’s name from Av-ra-m to Av-ra-HA-m (adding the Hebrew letter Hey). As the verse states:   

And your name shall no longer be called Av-ra-m, but your name shall be Av-ra-HA-m, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

[The Hebrew letter Hey stands for the Hebrew word “Hamon”, which means Multitude.]

As Rashi, the primary commentator of the Torah, explains:

The letter “Resh” that was in it [his name] originally, denoting that he was the father only of Aram, which was his native place, whereas now [with the added letter Hey, he becomes] the father of the whole world.  

G-d tells Avraham that he cannot be satisfied with leading and inspiring only his close circle, that he cannot just dream about creating a haven of Divine morality, rather he is charged with being a father to a multitude of nations. He must change his name, his mission statement, and his goals. He must teach his children that anybody who wishes to carry the torch, to perpetuate Avraham’s legacy, will have to follow the message embedded in the letter Hey that G-d added; that the goal of the movement is to fill all of the earth with the knowledge of G-d.  

Now, too often, those who try to impact the world sometimes forget about those closest to them. Those who are busy solving communal, national, and international problems, sometimes over look the “petty” problem their five year old daughter may be facing. Those who have the passion and ambition to make a significant impact on society are sometimes too busy for the people closest to them.   

G-d wants to prevent Avraham from making this mistake.

As the passage of Rashi quoted earlier continues:

“Nevertheless the “Resh” that was there originally was not moved from its place”.  

If the Hebrew letter Resh represents that Avraham was a father only to his native land, and the Hebrew letter Hey represents that he is a father to the entire world (“multitude of nations”), then why can’t we drop the letter Resh? Isn’t Avraham’s native land included in the “multitude of nations”?

The message then is that he should not forget about the “Resh”. That just like in the past, before his mission was expanded to include all the people of the earth, he understood that he must drop everything and risk his life to save his nephew Lot, so too after the broadening of his goals he must still be devoted to those closest to him.

Perhaps that is why, in the later portions, the Torah emphasizes that Avraham ultimately does impact all of his family. That even after he is forced, by Sarah and G-d, to expel Hagar he does not forget about her. That eventually he is able to bring Hagar back into his household, and remarry her.  

So, yes, carry the torch of Avraham, go out and make a deep impact on the world around you. But don’t forget about those who need you most.

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