In an extraordinary series of observations on this week’s parsha, Ramban delivers harsh criticisms of Abraham and Sarah. What is deeply interesting about Ramban’s approach is his willingness to point out flaws in their behaviour.
About a Refugee, Merits, Treatment of Women, and Covenants
After Avraham’s nephew Lot was taken captive by the four Mesopotamian kings, the Torah relates: “The refugee (palit) came and told Avram the Hebrew, who was dwelling in the plot of Mamreh the Emorite, the brother of Eshkol and Aner, and they were members of a covenant with Avram” (Bereishit 14:13). Among the many things to ask about this pasuk: Who was the palit and from what did he escape? What is the connection between the palit’s arrival and the friends in whose company Avraham was dwelling?
Hashem’s command to Avraham with which our parashah begins is listed as one of the ten tests that Avraham was asked to pass (Avot 5:3), and some say that it even included two tests (Avot D’Rabbi Natan 33). We will try to explain the difficulty of the task, which made it so highly regarded. The first sub-section of the parashah ends as follows: “Avram passed through the Land to the place of Shechem, to Elon Moreh, and the Canaanites were then in the Land” (Bereishit 12:6). Why is it significant that the Canaanites were in the Land at this time, and why does the Torah stress the word “then”?