Idols for Sale! Why did God choose Avraham to be the first Jew? Parashat Lech Lecha states that God told Avraham to leave his homeland for “the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1) but the Torah does not give any details about Abraham’s past. The following Midrash in Genesis Rabbah 38:13 gives us a glimpse into Avraham’s childhood:
Avraham’s dad, Terach, was an idol maker. Terach once went on a trip and left Avraham in charge of the shop. As customers entered the shop, Avraham would ask them how old they were. The customers often replied that they were 50 or 60-years-old, and Avraham would mock them saying, “How can a 50-year-old bow down to something that is only 1-day-old?!” As you can guess, that didn’t bring Terach’s Idol Shop much business. One time, a woman came into the shop with flour that she wanted Avraham to offer to the idols. Instead of offering the flour to the idols, Avraham took a stick and broke all of the idols, placing the stick in the hand of the largest idol.
Terach returned, and let’s just say that he was not a happy camper. When asked what happened, Avraham claimed that the idols had fought over who got to eat the flour offering. Terach was so frustrated that he passed Avraham over to the idolatrous King Nimrod, who challenged Avraham on his monotheistic beliefs. Nimrod ultimately threw Abraham into a pit of fire to see if “Avraham’s god” would save him from the fire. Sure enough, Avraham survived! Due to Avraham’s resilience and ability to hold onto his beliefs in the face of great danger, God chose him for the great task of founding the Jewish people.