Parasha Lech Lecha (Go! Get out of here!)* Genesis 12:1-17:27
God speaks to Abram, commanding him, "Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you." There, God says, he will be made into a great nation. Abram and his wife, Sarai, accompanied by his nephew Lot, journey to the land of Canaan, where Abram builds an altar and continues to spread the message of a one God.
A famine forces the first Jew to depart for Egypt, where beautiful Sarai is taken to Pharaoh's palace; Abram escapes death because they present themselves as brother and sister. A plague prevents the Egyptian king from touching her, and convinces him to return her to Abram and to compensate the brother-revealed-as-husband with gold, silver and cattle.
Back in the land of Canaan, Lot separates from Abram and settles in the evil city of Sodom, where he falls captive when the mighty armies conquer the five cities of the Sodom Valley. Abram sets out with a small band to rescue his nephew, defeats theagressors, and is blessed by the king of Jerusalem.
Still childless ten years after their arrival in the Land, Sarai tells Abram to marry her maidservant Hagar. Hagar conceives, becomes insolent toward her mistress, and then flees when Sarai treats her harshly; an angel convinces her to return, and tells her that her son will father a populous nation. Ishmael is born in Abram's eighty-sixth year.
Thirteen years later, God changes Abram's name to Abraham ("father of multitudes"), and Sarai's to Sarah ("princess"), and promises that a son will be born to them; from this child, whom they should call Isaac ("will laugh"), will create a great nation with which God will establish a special bond. Abraham is commanded to circumcise himself and his descendants as a "sign of the covenant between Me and you." Abraham immediately complies, circumcising himself and all the males of his household.
(*Paraphrased: Direct translation: "go for you")
Many wonderful contemporary songs have been written about Abram following God's commandment to leave his homeland and go across the river to "a land that I will show you." Here are two of my favorites: "Lechi Lach" by Debbie Friedman and "Across the River" by Sam Glaser.