For the week ending 15 November 2008 / 17 Heshvan 5769

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.


“…and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him” (18:18)

About twenty years ago a lonely little character sat on my keyboard. Nobody took much notice of him. He wasn’t very useful. He wasn’t the SPACE bar; he wasn’t CAPS; he wasn’t even CAPS LOCK. Almost the only people who ever pressed him were storekeepers and ledger writers who needed a mathematical abbreviation to turn two letters into one. His name was @.

@ was the loneliest character on my keyboard — typography’s ugly duckling.

Whoever would have thought a few short years later, @ is a megastar of worldwide proportions. Now he’s on everyone’s lips. Countless millions of email addresses span the world and everyone has to use that little ugly duckling — @.

The ugly duckling of the world of typography has become a swan.

In last week’s parsha, the Torah identifies the failings that led G-d to bring the great flood that destroyed almost the whole world. The failings of the Dor Hapalaga, the Generation of the Dispersal, however, are not so clear. The Midrash explains that Avraham alone proclaimed the Unity of G-d to the world. The generation of the flood saw him and his beliefs as a barren mule devoid of progeny, of a future. To their minds, monotheism would die with Avraham. They wanted to build a tower with an idol at its top; sword in hand it would proclaim that the earth had seceded from the heavens.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite being alone in his beliefs, Avraham’s gift to the world, monotheism, became the most widespread faith in the world.

The Mishna in Avot (4:3) says, “…do not despise any man, and consider nothing impossible, because there is no man that does not have his hour, and nothing that does not have its place.”

Even the humble @.

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