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by Lana Blinderman
From a place of great personal pain can come overwhelming care and protection of others.
This week’s Torah portion, Vayeira (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24), begins with Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent. Commentators question why he was sitting still rather than tending to the needs of his family or his flocks and look to the previous portion for answers. Abraham, it seems, was recovering from his adult circumcision!
Despite this, he rose immediately to greet the three strangers who appeared at his tent and attended to their needs. Hospitality in a desert culture was a matter of life and death, and Abraham’s urgency might well have arisen from his first-hand knowledge of pain. May we continue to draw inspiration from our sacred texts.
Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer
On account of Sarai, “al d’var Sarai,” the Egyptians are punished in this week’s Torah portion. First, some backstory. With a famine in the land and a need to travel, Abram pleaded with Sarai to say that she was his sister rather than his wife, lest the Egyptians desire her and seek to kill him. Her beauty was indeed noticed, and she was “taken” into Pharaoh’s household.
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik points out that whenever God addressed Abraham about Sarah, she was always spoken of by name — whereas in this text, the Egyptians refer to her only as an anonymous woman, as no more than her physical appearance. He posits that the Egyptians were punished for this action, “because they degraded Sarai, a great and singular person, by regarding her merely as a comely, anonymous woman.” It is an important lesson we haven’t learned in the 2,500 years since this text emerged on the scene.
God’s covenant with Abraham includes the information that he will live a good, long life and be reconnected with his ancestors in peace (Genesis 15:15). Commentators on our sacred text point out that this is an astounding promise. Terach was an idolator, and the remainder of our text does not deal kindly with those who worship idols: how could Abraham reconnect with him in peace?
“And Terach took Abram his son…and they went forth from Ur of the Chalices to go to the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 11:31) These words, from the end of this week’s Torah portion, come BEFORE God’s command that Abraham should leave his home in the following chapter. They were already on the journey when God commanded “lech-lecha!” Rashi thus asserted that Terach repented at the end of his life, seeking not only to place physical distance between himself and the source of his transgression but a better relationship with his son. Sometimes physical movement can be what it takes to change our perspective — literally distancing ourselves from wrongdoing. What moves do we need to make at the start of this near year?