The First Jew

Question

I read that Abraham’s parents were not Jewish. If so, how is he considered the first Jew? And, if he was the very first Jew, then what other religions were there? Double-thanks in advance!

, 8 months

Answers

  1. Abraham was the first individual to separate himself from the rest of idolatrous humanity and recognized God. That is why the Torah refers to him as “Ivri” — which means “on the other side.” Everyone else in the world was on “one side,” so to speak, worshiping idols, whereas Abraham boldly stood alone, recognizing that there is a single, non-physical God Who created and continually sustains everything in existence.

    It was through Abraham that God widely reintroduced the universal teachings of Judaism to the world. Until Abraham, these teachings were preserved by only a few individuals. Abraham proceeded to transmit these teachings of Judaism through his progeny — known as the “Hebrews” (an English word derived from their being the descendants of Abraham the “Ivri”). The Jewish People are also known as “Israelites” — the descendants of Jacob, who is also known as Israel.

    Formally speaking, however, we only became a Jewish People at Sinai, where, en masse, the Israelites underwent a proper “conversion.” This involved the nation’s acceptance of one God, the Torah and His teachings.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team