What was the difference between Abraham and those who came before him? Why is Abraham known to most of us as the first of our three forefathers, while only those with a more advanced education have even heard of the Yeshiva of Shem [Noah’s Son] & Ever [Shem’s great-grandson]?
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Mayer Kagan, explains: neither Shem nor Ever taught Judaism to their children as well as others. Abraham had to come to a recognition of the Divine on his own. But what did he do? Abraham knew that if he did not spread the knowledge of G-d’s ways, then honor of G-d would be lost from the world.
G-d knew that Avraham would spread the same ideals within his family. That is why he was rewarded with a son who followed the same path, and a grandson and 12 great-grandchildren, from whom emerged an entire nation.
What were the Jews “chosen” for? Anyone can become a Jew, so what does it mean? The answer, of course, is that we were chosen to continue the mission of our forebears — to spread the knowledge of G-d in the world. It is not enough for us to simply study the Torah ourselves — we must teach it to our children, and to others as well.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org