Parshat Lech Lecha
God speaks to Avram (Abram), commanding him to "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. Avram and his wife Sarai, accompanied by his nephew Lot, journey to the Land of Canaan, where Avram 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; Avram 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 Avram and compensate the brother-revealed-as-husband with gold, silver and cattle.
Back in the Land of Canaan, Lot separates from Avram and settles in the evil city of Sodom, where he falls captive when the mighty armies of Chedorlaomer and his three allies conquer the five cities of the Sodom Valley. Avram sets out with a small band to rescue his nephew, defeats the four kings, and is blessed by Malki-Zedek the king of Salem (Jerusalem).
God seals the Covenant (brit) Between the Parts with Avram, in which the exile and persecution (Galut) of the people of Israel is foretold and the Holy Land is bequeathed to them as their eternal heritage.
Still childless ten years after their arrival in the Land, Sarai tells Avram 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 Avram's 86th year.
Thirteen years later, God changes Avram's name to Avraham [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 Yitzchak [Isaac] ("will laugh"), will stem the great nation with which God will establish His special bond. Avraham is commanded to circumcise himself and his descendents as a "sign of the covenant between Me and you."