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Moses appointed twelve emissaries to scout out the Holy Land and return with a report. The representative for the tribe of Ephraim was Moses’ primary disciple, Joshua. Until this time, the lad’s name was Oshua. But Moses added a letter to his name and called him Joshua.
Rashi, the famed eleventh …

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Home » Lech L'cha

Lech L’cha: Ancestral Rights Or Globalism

Submitted by on October 26, 2009 – 1:48 pmNo Comment | 2,960 views

Ancient Divide

Shortly after Great Flood Noah apportioned the known landmass to his three children. Japheth, the oldest son, was awarded Asia and Europe, Ham, the youngest, received the African continent and Shem, the youngest son, received a relatively small section in the Middle East. It was hardly a continent, but it was a most coveted section of the globe for it included the greatest prize of all – Israel. (1)

Noah’s sons begot many children and built countries and cities within their assigned continents for each of their children and grandchildren. (2) Egypt was built by Ham for his son Mizrayim, Greece was built by Japheth for his son Javan and Shem built Armenia for his son Aram, etc. Each son received a country and populated it; this is how the ancient nations were formed. Had this arrangement remained in force the Holy Land would have been clearly marked today as Semitic territory, property of Shem’s children, and there would have been no controversy over its ownership. The problem began with the tower of Babel.


Noah’s demarcations stood for nearly three and a half centuries; the families evolving into full nations, each with a distinctive language and cultures. But shortly before the dawn of the second millennium Nimrod, a powerful king in Babylon, united the nascent human race in an attempt at globalization.

As they are today, ancient efforts to globalize were supported by environmentalist philosophy. Nimrod argued that the Great Flood, which had occurred three hundred years earlier, resulted from unstable global conditions. He posited that waters pooled above the sky and as the waters mounted and pressures increased the skies broke and released the flood. He warned that unless steps were taken to strengthen the skies disaster would strike again and the human race would be annihilated. This was the first campaign to save the planet and Nimrod successfully rallied the entire human race to his cause. This concern, he warned, is our collective responsibility; it is beyond the capacity of any single nation to resolve. It would only be solved if humanity pooled its resources in a global effort. (3)

In this vein Nimrod orchestrated a massive population transfer, inviting the entire human race to Babylon and creating a single Nation under his leadership. Nations abandoned their distinctive cultures and languages and banned together to support the skies. They built a massive tower and hoped their works would reinforce the skies and stave off the next calamity. (4)

As is usual in these campaigns, the effort to save the world was a thinly veiled power grab. So great was Nimrod’s hubris that he was not content to control humanity; he sought to replace G-d by claiming to be a more reliable custodian of nature than its creator. We must act now, he urged, or the planet will collapse. If we don’t act, no one will; we are the planet’s only hope.

Sound familiar?

G-d was not amused with Nimrod’s antic and foiled the effort. Globalization can only work if there is a common language. In Nimrod’s case that language was Hebrew. G-d simply erased the Hebrew language from their memory and forced them to return to their native language. Without a common language the effort was disrupted and the masses returned to their respective homes. (5)

Land Grab

The nations dispersed, but not all nations returned to their former regions in peace; many nations engaged in reckless land grabbing. The most populous nation was Canaan, descendants of Ham, who made a grab for Israel does israel belong to the jews - innerstreamand this is where the troubles began.

By law Canaan would have been within its rights to settle in Israel because Shem’s children had abandoned their land. When they joined Nimrod’s global community they dissolved their nation and forfeited all rights to their inheritance. Canaan ostensibly took possession of ownerless lands. (6)


Thankfully one of Shem’s descendants stood his ground and refused to join the mass hysteria. He did not subscribe to the fears of a coming environmental catastrophe nor did he submit to Nimrod’s popular globalization scheme. This lone man, who stood without peer, was our forefather Abraham.

Abraham, a direct descendant of Shem, lived in Mesopotamia. A vociferous critic of the tower project, he denounced it as a crime against G-d. (7) From afar, he opposed the abandonment of the Holy Land; if his cousins were prepared to forfeit their ancestral rights, Abraham loudly declared that he was not.

Infuriated by Abraham’s opposition to Nimrod and by his efforts to preach monotheism, the atheist Nimrod imprisoned Abraham for ten years and sentenced him to execution by fire. Bound and gagged Abraham was thorn into the fire; the flames danced about his body and licked at his skin, but Abraham emerged unscathed. His life miraculously spared, Abraham grabbed his family and fled. (8)

Terach, Abraham’s father refused to travel all the way to Israel and settled in Haran. Abraham, whose soul yearned for the Holy Land, made frequent trips to Israel and back.  Five years later, when G-d instructed Abraham to relocate permanently to Israel, the Canaanites made their grab for Israel. (9)

Abraham, alone among Shem’s descendants to maintain his claim to Israel, was the only legitimate contestant to Canaan’s bid for the Holy Land. But his, was a lone voice. Solitary and unpopular he was drowned out by a cacophony of international objections. By sheer numbers Abraham was outweighed, but Abraham spoke the truth and the truth is not intimidated by numbers. (10) The other Semitic tribes had forfeited their ancestral rights, but Abraham had not. By rights and by law the land belonged to Abraham and his descendants irrespective of the international community’s position and G-d declared that it would be so. Four-hundred-and-seventy years later, when the Jews returned under Joshua, they righted an old wrong; they laid claim to Israel and retook the land stolen by Canaan. (11)

We are the beneficiaries of Abraham’s courage. Had Abraham bowed to international pressures and surrendered his rights to Israel G-d might not have granted the land to his descendants and we would not have had our homeland today. This must serve as a lesson to us today. If we submit to international pressures and concede our rights to our land our children might be cheated out of their homeland.

Abraham did not surrender and neither shall we.

Questions For Further Discussion

Do you see a link between events in those days and events overtaking us today?
How would you articulate the contemporary Jewish right to Israel?
What is your concept of Zionism within the context of Torah?


  1. See Rashi on Genesis 12:6. See also Chassam Sofer (Reb Moshe Sofer) ibid.
  2. See Genesis 10.
  3. The reason articulated in this essay is one of several enumerated in Berieshis Rabbah 38: 6 and cited by Rashi on Genesis 11: 1.
  4. Genesis 11: 1-2.
  5. Genesis 11: 7.
  6. See Chassam Sofer (Reb Moshe Sofer) Genesis12:6.
  7. Pirkei D’ Reb Eliezer ch. 24.
  8. Bereishis Rabbah 38: 13 and Yalkut Shimoni 77.
  9. Thus the Torah tells us that when Abraham arrived to Israel, “the Canaanites were in the land.” The twelfth century commentator Rashi explained that the Canaanites were then in the process of laying claim to the birthright of Shem’s descendants. Abraham was born in 1948 from the year of creation. The tower of Babel was built in 1996, when Abraham was 48 years old. It was only 27 years later that Abraham was instructed to relocate to Israel. From the Torah’s phrase, the Canaanites were then in the land and Rashi’s commentary cited above it appears that Abraham arrived to Israel shortly after the Tower of Babel project was foiled. This suggests the possibility that the project lasted approximately twenty years.
  10. Nachmanidies to Genesis 12: 6 writes that Abraham feared for his life; his was a lone voice in the wilderness surrounded by the teeming population of pagan and uncouth Canaanites. But G-d appeared to Abraham and told him to have no fear for though Canaan was strengthening its hold on Israel, the land would ultimately return to Abraham. Abraham, profoundly relieved, built an altar in gratitude and brought an offering to G-d.
  11. See Nachmanidies on Genesis 10: 15 that G-d allowed Canaan to settle in Israel in order to guard it for the Jews. Cannaan is indentured to Shem and what belongs to the servant is owned by his master.
  12. This is by no means a suggestion that our right to Israel today are founded on Abraham’s ancient semitic rights. Our claim to Israel results from G-d’s promise of the land to our ancestors. This essay merely suggests that it was on account of Abraham’s staunch loyalty to G-d and to the Holy Land that G-d gave the land to him and his descendants. See Genesis 26: 5.