Torah Portion: Vayera (And He Appeared) B’resheet (Genesis) 18-22
Haftorah Reading: II Kings 4:1-37
Our Torah portion today covers a large swath of the life of Avraham, beginning with the appearance of G-d to him as he was sitting in the door of his tent. In this meeting G-d told Avraham His plan to give Avraham and Sarah a child in their old age and also of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In this meeting we read of Avraham’s intercession for these cities, ending in their ultimate destruction after even 10 righteous people could not be found there.
We also read in chapter 22 what is known in Hebrew as the “Akidah” or in English, the binding of Isaac where Avraham almost sacrificed his son on an altar on top of a mountain that would become known as the Temple Mount today. In this event, when G-d asked Avraham to take his only son and sacrifice him, we see not one word of protest from Avraham. As far as scripture reveals, he raised no objections to the heavenly command. How do we make sense of this? Avraham was a man who argued with G-d for the sinners of Sodom but said nothing of protest when confronted with G-d’s command to sacrifice his only son, the son of promise.
I want us to spend the next few minutes seeing if we can find some ideas on this perplexing issue. In the first incident we read in Genesis 18:25 where Avraham appeals to G-d’s sense of justice. He says in effect, what will people say if you destroy the righteous with the unrighteious? In the verses, Genesis 18:30-32 where we read of this incident, Avraham uses the name for G-d, “Adonai.” In some ways this word reflects a limited view of G-d. What is interesting here in these verses we often see this name translated as L-rd. In Hebrew it reflects a somewhat limited view of the person being addressed. It reflects someone who you can bargain with, maybe even care about. It implies a familiarity but not the majestic and awe of G-d. So, here in these verses we get a view of where Avraham was in his relationship with the Father. It can remind us of how we relate to G-d sometimes, maybe somewhat like we relate to our earthly father. Often children can manipulate their parent by talking to them in a certain way or acting in a certain way. They know their father loves them and can be moved to change his mind. For us it is important to have this understanding of G-d. He does love us and desires our love. He wants us to express our wants to Him.
The problem is we, like Avraham, need to understand that there is more to our relationship than this. We have to mature in our faith. We have to grow. We have to understand that sometimes a parent’s request must be obeyed.
Avraham had matured in his faith. He had moved from a view of G-d based mainly on love to one that also included seeing the awesomeness and majesty of G-d and showing Him the honor due Him. When we read the verses here we see in Genesis 20:11 where Avraham said, “There is no fear of G-d in this place.” This place being referred to was the land of the Philistines. In Genesis 21:34 we read where Avraham stayed in the land of the Philistines many days.
The very next verse starts the story of the binding of Isaac and G-d testing Avraham. What was the test? I think it was this new depth of faith that Avraham had acquired. The test was for Avraham’s benefit because G-d already knew Avraham had moved to a deeper level. Have we? Do we see and related to G-d as an awesome G-d majestic and above all, or are we in the stage of maybe looking and relating to the Almighty as a close friend or maybe even as a sort of Santa Claus – a giver of what we want.
Do we live our life everyday overwhelmed by His glory and honor? Do we live each day with the overriding goal to do only what He desires? In Genesis 22:12 we read where Avraham had come to the place of completely living his life knowing all of G-d and his only desire was to do His will. He showed it here in verse 14 by his actions and by the word he used in naming the place, “The L-rd will provide,” using the Holy 4 letter name of G-d that encompasses all of the Father.