For the week ending 4 November 2023 / 20 Cheshvan 5784

Parshat Vayera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
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Three days after performing brit mila on himself, Avraham is visited by Hashem. 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. Hashem reveals to Avraham that He will destroy Sodom, and Avraham pleads for Sodom to be spared. Hashem agrees that if there are fifty righteous people in Sodom He will not destroy it. Avraham "bargains" Hashem 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. Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. Lot’s 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 Hashem 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 Hashem 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 Hashem promises that he will be the progenitor of a mighty nation.

Avimelech enters into an alliance with Avraham when he sees that Hashem is with him. In a tenth and final test of Avraham, Hashem 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, Hashem sends an angel to stop Avraham. Because of Avraham’s unquestioning obedience, Hashem promises him that even if the Jewish People sin, they will never be completely dominated by their foes. The Torah portion concludes with the genealogy and birth of Rivka.


Is Life Worthless Or Priceless?

“But the son of the slave-woman (Yishmael), as well, I will make into a nation, for he is your offspring.” (21:13)

Judaism says there is a G-d who controls everything; that nothing happens without Him wanting it to happen. Whether we like it or not, the massacre of Simchat Torah was part of His plan. How we can understand that? The beginning and the end of understanding is that Divine reasons are beyond the understanding of humans. That’s the difference between faith and trust, between emuna and bitachon.

You can believe Hashem exists, but how much do you trust Him? Sure, you trust Him when you pray and you get what you want, but real trust is when things don’t go the way you want them to, and you still say, “Hashem I trust You. I don’t understand why You are doing this, but I know and believe that it is for my good and the ultimate good of the world.”

The Jewish People have been subjected to the most savage, cold-blooded and murderous assault since the Second World War. This has shaken us from our complacency. We think that anti-Semitism is under control, that we are living in golden age, the army is invincible. That Saudi Arabia will tame the Arab world. If you look at the history of Jewish People, you will see that much of our exile has been one of being victims, fear and running for our lives. Why were so many Jews jewelers? Because you pack up your wealth in a small packet and run for your life. Why are so many Jews artisans? Because your livelihood doesn’t depend on anything outside yourself, or being an entrepreneur for that matter.

In the Shema, the basic credo of the Jew and our declaration of faith before we leave this world, the second time we say the name of Hashem, one of our thoughts should be that I am prepared to put up with any pain or suffering, or to give my life to sanctify the Name of Hashem. That’s what we are committing to. Perhaps, the most important thing in our lives is the way we leave this life.

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