Our sources mention not only the mere existence of Abraham's pious forefathers, such as Shem and Ever but their Toranic activities in the Promised land, such as Shem being a Kohen in Jerusalem and also a mysterious Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, where Yaakov studied Torah for 14 years, IIRC.

Suspiciously, despite being a family and the only Torah followers in the world, neither Abraham, not Isaac or Yaakov (besides the hiding) teamed up with them either for marriage or religious practices (like davening in Minyan or setting up a court) or converting people together, according to the open text of the Torah.

Why would Abraham, Isaac, and Yaakov completely ignore their devout Jew-ish family?

  • Since they were many generations removed, they no longer had religious families except the line that ended with Terach, That is why Yitzchak married Rivkah and Yaakov married Rachel and Leah. They were the ones of the line from Shem to Ever to Terach to Haran to Besuel. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 19:05
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    @sabbahillel IIRC, Terach was an idolater as the rest of the family, but Shem was a Kohen and Ever had a Yeshiva. So why prefer idolatrous Terach over more religious other related families, just because they are closer genetically to Abraham?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 20:08
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    Interesting question. If we say that Avraham was busy with spreading the message of Hashem, and Shem was "hanging around" being the king of Shalem, it seems like they had different ideals. In fact, it seems that same could be said about Ever. Both Shem and Ever seem to have had a passive attitude - especially considering that it doesn't seem like they ever attempted to rein in their warring descendants (likewise Cham and Yefet). Ever built a yeshiva - whoever wanted could come, but he didn't do active outreach, while Avraham was very active. Perhaps these opposing philosophies on how to
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 20:20
  • spread the Name of Hashem in the world led them to stay separate, for most of the time. I wouldn't say though that they completely ignored them. Yaakov stayed for many years in Shem and Ever's yeshiva, Rivka sought counsel from them and Avraham met Shem after the war. In fact, there are large periods of their lives the aren't mentioned in the Torah, so we don't know what happened during that time.
    – Harel13
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 20:20
  • Since we're on the topic, does anyone know of a Midrash or such I once heard of, that says that the meeting between Avraham and Malki-Tzedek/Shem was momentous, and that both of them were terrified of the other? They seem to have represented two very different derachim.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 15:59

2 Answers 2


Although they didn't 'team up' through marriage, there are quite a few sources that do point to an association with them in religious practises etc.

Yalkut Shimoni, Bereishis 80 - Avraham sent for Shem to perform bris milah for him and Yishmael:

רבן גמליאל אומר שלח אברהם וקרא לשם בן נח ומל את בשר ערלתו וישמעאל בנו

Rabban Gamliel said, Avraham sent and called for Shem the son of Noach, and he (Shem) circumcised the flesh of his (Avraham's) foreskin and Yishmael his son.

Targum Yonason Bereishis 22:19 - After the Akeidah, malachim took Yitzchak and brought him to the yeshiva of Shem where he stayed for three years:

וּדְבָרוּ מַלְאֲכֵי מְרוֹמָא יַת יִצְחָק וְאוֹבִלוֹהִי לְבֵי מֶדְרָשָׁא דְשֵׁם רַבָּא וַהֲוָה תַּמָן תְּלַת שְׁנִין

And the angels upon high took Yitzchak and brought him into the beis medrash (house of learning) of Shem the Great; and he was there three years.

Alternatively, see Bereishis Rabbah 56:11 where the Midrash says on the same pasuk (22:19) that Avraham sent him to learn Torah from Shem, the reason being because - "Avraham said: ‘All that has happened to me is only because I engaged in Torah and mitzvos; so I do not want it to ever depart from my descendants.’"

Whilst you mention that Yaakov learnt by Shem and Ever for 14 years, a period that followed his flight from Esav (as mentioned in Rashi 28:11 here) there are sources that point to the fact that he already enjoyed an association with them...

When it mentions in Bereishis 25:27 that as Yaakov grew up, he was:

אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃ - And Yaakov was a simple man who dwelt in tents.

It writes in Bereishis Rabbah 63:10 that these "tents" were a reference to him learning by Shem and Ever:

וְיַעֲקֹב אִישׁ תָּם ישֵׁב אֹהָלִים, שְׁנֵי אֹהָלִים, בֵּית מִדְרָשׁוֹ שֶׁל שֵׁם וּבֵית מִדְרָשׁוֹ שֶׁל עֵבֶר

"And Yaakov was a simple man who dwelt in tents" - These were two tents; the house of learning of Shem and the house of learning of Ever.

And this wasn't the odd appearance every now and again, it was a constant to and fro. It writes in the Midrash Tanchuma (Buber edition), Vayishlach 9 that his level of ameilus (toil) was so great that he would flit from Shem's house of learning to Ever, and then from Ever's to Avraham's.

Indeed, the Seder Olam Rabbah, 1 writes that aside from learning from/attending to his grandfather Avraham, Yaakov attended to Shem for fifty years(!):

יעקב שימש את אבינו אברהם ט"ו שנה, ואת שם חמשים שנה

Yaakov attended Avraham our forefather for 15 years, and Shem for 50 years.


Another angle to this question is that they excelled in different things i.e. what Shem and Eiver were 'good' at was not necessarily the same as the Avos and as a result, they stuck to what they were good at. As such, they didn't partner in the sense you ask because they had differing strengths.

I saw the following thought brought in Torah Tavlin for Parshas Lech Lecha 5782

The pasuk in Lech Lecha 12:5 writes:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח אַבְרָם֩ אֶת־שָׂרַ֨י אִשְׁתּ֜וֹ וְאֶת־ל֣וֹט בֶּן־אָחִ֗יו וְאֶת־כָּל־רְכוּשָׁם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר רָכָ֔שׁוּ וְאֶת־הַנֶּ֖פֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֣וּ בְחָרָ֑ן וַיֵּצְא֗וּ לָלֶ֙כֶת֙ אַ֣רְצָה כְּנַ֔עַן וַיָּבֹ֖אוּ אַ֥רְצָה כְּנָֽעַן׃

Avram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had amassed, and the persons (lit. souls) that they had made/acquired in Charan; and they set out for the land of Canaan. And they came to the land of Canaan.

The Rosh Yeshiva and member Degel Hatorah Moetzas Gedolei Yisrael, HaRav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi shlita brings in his Bircas Mordechai (from p. 134) the Tanna D'Vei Eliyahu which writes how Shem tried to influence the world for 400 years without any joy. It was only when Avraham came on the scene that he was able to 'create souls'.

Thus, the Torah Tavlin concludes:

Why was Shem not successful like Avraham? Because different people have different talents. The Avos had the unique ability to create souls. Shem and Eiver lacked that ability. At the same time, Shem and Eiver did have the ability to create Avos. All of them learned how to be avos in Yeshivas Shem V'Ever. Sometimes you need a Yeshiva in order to create the superstars who will lead the next generation.

  • Yaakov only learned in the yeshiva of Ever for 14 years. Shem had died by then. (Ever died soon after.)
    – MichoelR
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 23:57
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    @MichoelR I am not denying that, I am saying that there are sources that prove he already had a connection with them before this point of sustained study
    – Dov
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 7:48

Also... there are הלכות and גזירות which come from בית דינו של שם For example, yehuda paskened that tamar should be burned and in avodah zara לו it says that psak was what בי״ד of shem was גוזר

(rashi there says that yehuda’s daughter in law was shems daughter ....seems they did intermarry)

also.... the gemara says מימות אבותינו לא פסקה ישיבה מהם and the meforshim explain why not start with yeshiva of shem? and they answer ...that his yeshiva was private in his basement and the avos learned there But the avos began yeshivas to speed the torah to the the world

In summary,they did not unite, although shem was their mesora ,yet they differed a lot in the derech limud and yeshiva goals mainly in spreading G-d name to the world
(THINK chabad vs yeshivas)

PS the same reason is given ,as to why hash-em started am yisroel fro the avos and not from shem? The reason is ...because the torah is needed to be spread far and wide and the way to accomplish it is by the goal of learning being to spread g-d name

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. - From Review Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 10:00
  • hope the edit helps
    – user19400
    Commented Nov 13, 2020 at 1:09
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    It's a good start, I gave you +1 on the condition that you straighten it up by 1) making clear distinctive points, 2) Using Capital and small letters correctly (with names) 3) explaining what DIL or BMG are. 4) explaining the last line.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 15:55

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