Torah Weekly

For the week ending 30 October 2004 / 15 Heshvan 5765

Parshat Vayera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

Three days after performing brit mila on himself, Avraham is visited by G-d. When three angels appear in human form, Avraham rushes to show them hospitality by bringing them into his tent, despite this being the most painful time after the operation. Sarah laughs when she hears from them that she will bear a son next year. G-d reveals to Avraham that He will destroy Sodom, and Avraham pleads for Sodom to be spared. G-d agrees that if there are fifty righteous people in Sodom He will not destroy it. Avraham "bargains" G-d down to ten righteous people. However, not even ten can be found. Lot, his wife and two daughters are rescued just before sulfur and fire rain down on Sodom and her sister cities. Lots wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Lots daughters fear that as a result of the destruction there will be no husbands for them. They decide to get their father drunk and through him to perpetuate the human race. From the elder daughter, Moav is born, and from the younger, Ammon. Avraham moves to Gerar where Avimelech abducts Sarah. After G-d appears to Avimelech in a dream, he releases Sarah and appeases Avraham. As promised, a son, Yitzchak, is born to Sarah and Avraham. On the eighth day after the birth, Avraham circumcises him as commanded. Avraham makes a feast the day Yitzchak is weaned. Sarah tells Avraham to banish Hagar and Hagar's son Yishmael because she sees in him signs of degeneracy. Avraham is distressed at the prospect of banishing his son, but G-d tells him to listen to whatever Sarah tells him to do. After nearly dying of thirst in the desert, Yishmael is rescued by an angel and G-d promises that he will be the progenitor of a mighty nation. Avimelech enters into an alliance with Avraham when he sees that G-d is with him. In a tenth and final test, G-d instructs Avraham to take Yitzchak, who is now 37, and to offer him as a sacrifice. Avraham does this, in spite of ostensibly aborting Jewish nationhood and contradicting his life-long preaching against human sacrifice. At the last moment, G-d sends an angel to stop Avraham. Because of Avrahams unquestioning obedience, G-d promises him that even if the Jewish People sin, they will never be completely dominated by their foes. The Parsha ends with the genealogy and birth of Rivka.

Insights

Desert Motel 1

"G-d appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent" (18:1)

Avraham planted a beautiful orchard in Beer Sheva. In this orchard he put up his tent. The tent was constantly open on all four sides. The four sides symbolize this world. We relate to this world by the four compass points. Avraham had his tent open on all four sides to attract guests from all directions, from all walks of life. From whichever direction you came, whatever your background, Avrahams tent was attractive.

We, who try as modern-day Avrahams to provide for the spiritual sustenance to our brothers who are wandering in a spiritual desert, must give them access to their heritage from wherever they have come, and with whatever baggage they are carrying.

Desert Motel 2

"G-d appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent" (18:1)

The Midrash relates that when Avraham opened his tent to the world, the word spread that a wonderful person had opened a free hotel in the desert with abundant shelter and refreshment. The guests arrived from far and wide, enjoyed their meal, and then arose to go.

"You must make a beracha (blessing) after your meal." Said Avraham, "Say Blessed is the Master of the Universe from Whose generosity we have eaten! "

"We dont want to say a beracha" complained the guests. "Who is this Master of the Universe?"

Avraham replied to them "You may do as you please, but if you dont make a beracha, I will have to charge you for the meal."

"How much is it?" replied the guests.

"Well, a bottle of wine is ten gold pieces. A steak is ten gold pieces and a loaf of bread is ten gold pieces."

"What! Thats exorbitant!"

"Tell me please," said Avraham, "what is the price of a loaf in the middle of the desert?" Where else in this wilderness could you find wine or meat?"

The guests had to concede that Avraham was right. "Who was that Master that you asked us to thank? Let us bless him."

The Midrash continues that by means of his hospitality and teachings, Avraham drew thousands of people closer to G-d.

Ostensibly, the guests in this story dont sound as though they were particularly drawn to G-d. It sounds more as if they preferred to mouth a few words of blessing rather than cough up a hefty lunch tab.

Rather, by pointing out to his guests the rarity of food and drink in the desert Avraham led them to reflect on the miraculous nature of their entire existence in this world. Was not the whole world a desert were it not for the rain, the soil, and the miracle of food that grows in the dirt?

Avraham led his guests to introspect on the entire source of sustenance. He opened their eyes to the fact that this four-sided tent called the world is no more than a desert motel hanging precariously in space, created and sustained only by the Master of the Universe.

  • Source: Based on the Midrash, Bereishet Rabba 49

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