In Lech Lecha, we are introduced to Abraham, the first Jew and the forefather of our people. Abraham is called
Ivri, a Hebrew, and the name has stuck for his descendants.
On a simple level, he was called Ivri because geographically he came from
ever hanahar, the "other side of the river." On a deeper level, he stood on the "other side" of the world in his principles and moral standing. In a dark, decadent world, he shined the light of monotheism and divine moral clarity.
G-d entrusted the Jewish people with the obligation of being "a light unto the nations" (Isaiah 42:6). It's a job description that not only is arduous, but has caused genuine envy as well as the deepest and most vile hatred. Most of humanity would rather yield to the prevailing status quo and social pressure than deviate from its accustomed behaviors.
Abraham, too, could easily have chosen to follow the norm; instead, he followed his soul. As a result, he was thrown into a burning furnace for not bowing to idols, was expelled from his home, was tested countless times, and only miraculously escaped with his life. Nevertheless, he stood tall and firm in what he knew to be the truth.
He passed on this legacy to his descendants.
We all have choices: To follow the tide or to swim upstream. To be satisfied with the status quo, or to improve our world through a higher spiritual service or a greater moral code. Throughout the centuries, Abraham's descendants have made disproportionate contributions in these areas.
Our greatest haters realized that this was our fate. They also realized that this desire to make our world a home for G-d is inherently embedded within our Jewish soul.
Within each and every one of us.
-- From: Shabbat deLights