For the week ending 27 October 2007 / 15 Heshvan 5768

Parshat Vayera

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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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.


Please do not adjust your set, reality is at fault.

“And he (Avraham) was sitting at the entrance of the tent…” (18:1)

The elderly lady was sitting in the parking lot. She was obviously very distressed. “Mrs. Cohen,” I said, “What’s the matter?” She replied trembling, “I don’t know where it is! I don’t know where it is!” “You don’t know where what is?” I asked. “I don’t know where my car is! I’m sure I left it here, and it’s not here now. Maybe I’m going senile. Maybe I don’t know where things are anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t drive anymore!”

I thought for a moment.

“Maybe your car has been stolen, Mrs. Cohen.”

Her eyes widened. “Do you think so? Oh, I do hope so!”

We called the police, and sure enough her car had been found, stripped to the chassis, in a town on the West Bank.

Sometimes things aren’t the way they seem.

“…and he (Avraham) was sitting at the entrance of the tent…”

The Midrash reveals to us that Avraham wanted to stand up when G-d appeared to him. G-d said to him, “You sit, and I will stand…”

When you go see your bank manager to try and get a loan, you stand and he sits; the one who stands is dependent on the one sits.

When Avraham wanted to stand, G-d told him to sit. G-d was telling Avraham, I depend on you; everything depends on you, not the other way round.

How can this be? How can G-d depend on any creation?

If you look at this world, it seems that above us is only the sky; you would be hard pressed to see the existence of many, many worlds above this one. And yet they exist. Millions of worlds, and, of all of them, ours is the lowest.

And yet, G-d decided that the whole of creation would be governed by what we do in this lowest of the worlds, down here at the bottom of the pile.

When we perform an act of kindness it reverberates all the way to the highest of the highest worlds, and that causes G-d to radiate an influx of blessing back down to this world.

In other words, a kind word may stop an earthquake, or a train collision, or a war.

This is the how we can understand the verse in Tehillim (Psalms) “Give strength to G-d.” Man has been given the role of strengthening the creation through his actions, or, G-d forbid, the reverse.

You’d never believe it were so, but sometimes things are not the way they seem.

  • Based on Da’at Torah and a story heard from Rabbi Mordechai Moshe Epstein.

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