Wednesday, November 12, 2008



This week's portion is the jam-packed parshah of Vayyera:

Avraham and the Angels
[The sequence of events at the beginning of this Torah portion may be understood in several ways because of ambiguity in the text; here is one of the traditional ways to understand it:]
Avraham circumcised himself at the end of last week's portion, and he was very weak afterward. Tradition teaches that the third day after a surgery is the day of the greatest pain, and Gd visited Avraham on that day. Gd sent Avraham three angelic messengers, disguised as human passersby; Avraham thought they were human beings.
Avraham asked Gd to wait while he tended to his visitors, offering them water to wash their feet as well as a full meal prepared with Sarah and Yishmael. One of the guests informed Avraham and Sarah that Yitzchak will be born to them. Two of the guests then departed to travel to Sdom, with a mission to destroy that area and save Lot.

Gd decided to destroy Sdom because of their xenophobic cruelty. He informed Avraham of this decision, and Avraham protested that if there were 50 righteous people among them, it would not be right to destroy the whole area. He tried to bargain Gd down to accept fewer and fewer righteous people and save the city.
In the end, Gd didn't tell Avraham whether He would destroy the city or not.

The Guests Arrive in Sdom
The angels arrived in Sdom, and met Lot. Lot insisted that they come to his home, and he offered them water and food (practices he had seen in Avraham and Sarah's home). The townspeople learned of their presence, and attacked the house in an attempt to get at them for abusive purposes. Lot betrayed his lack of righteousness by offering the townspeople his daughters in place of the visitors. Despite Lot's lack of personal merit, the angels defended Lot and his family.
The angels destroyed Sdom and saved Lot, his wife and two daughters, warning them not to look back at the city's destruction; their merit was not great enough to allow them to see the downfall of others, as they surivived. Lot's wife looked back, and was frozen as a pillar of salt in her place.
Lot and his daughters fled. When they camped, Lot's daughters got him drunk and mated with him, thinking that they would not find another man.

Avimelech and the Philistines
Avraham and Sarah saw the devastation of Sdom, and moved away to the southwest part of Israel, an area controlled by the Philistines.
As they did in Egypt in last week's Torah portion, Avraham and Sarah pretended to be brother and sister lest Avraham be killed by those who would kill him and take Sarah. Avimelech took Sarah, but Gd told him to let her go. He did so, and he rebuked Avraham for the deception.

Birth of Yitzchak
Avraham and Sarah moved away, and Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Yitzchak. Yishmael, Yitzchak's 17-year-old half-brother, became a threat to Yitzchak, and Sarah told Avraham to evict Yishmael along with Yishmael's mother, Hagar. Gd backed up Sarah's words, and Avraham did it.
Hagar and Yishmael ran out of water in the desert, but Gd rescued them when Yishmael called out to Him.

The Binding of Yitzchak
Gd appeared to Avraham and told him to bring Yitzchak up on a mountain. Avraham understood this as an order to sacrifice Yitzchak, and so he prepared to do it even though this would have meant the end of Avraham's dreams for his descendants. At the last moment, Gd told Avraham to spare Yitzchak, and He promised Avraham that his total faith would be rewarded during the lives of his descendants.
We then learn of the birth of Rivkah, who would go on to marry Yitzchak.

Have a great day,

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