Torah Portion: Vayera Genesis 18:1-22:24 HafTorah: II Kings 4:1-37
I would like us to compare Abraham’s actions with other earlier Biblical characters.
a.How did Adam and Eve handle their sinful actions when confronted by G-d? Now look at Genesis 13:8-9 where a quarrel breaks out between the herdsmen of Lot and those of Abraham over the availability of grazing land for their herds. How does Abraham deal with this?
What did Adam and Eve do? They denied any personal responsibility. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. I asked you to look at Genesis 13:8-9 where a quarrel broke out between the herdsmen of Lot and those of Abraham over the availability of grazing land for their herds. How does Abraham deal with this? He took personal responsibility. He did not pass judgment. He did not ask whose fault the argument was. He did not seek to reap any financial rewards. No, He gave Lot his choice of land. He saw the problem and took action to solve it without passing judgment or blame. Many times we are more involved with blaming rather than bringing growth.
Yeshua brought this out when the woman taken in adultery was brought before Him in John 8:1-11. He did not judge her but sought to help her and the people who brought her to see the more important issue. I think this was a learning time for Lot, whether he learned from it was his problem. But Abraham dealt with it correctly.
b. Next let us look at the sin of Cain and compare him to Abraham. Remember Cain killed his brother. What did he do when confronted by G-d? In Chapter 14 we read where Lot is captured in the wake of a local war. What are Abraham’s actions? When confronted by G-d Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” He did not accept moral responsibility for his actions. In Chapter 14 we read where Lot was captured in the wake of a local war. What were Abraham’s actions? He gathered an army and rescued Lot, along with the other captives, and returned them to their homes. So here Abraham immediately takes action even though Lot chose to live where he did and shows without any doubt we are our brother’s keepers. We are called to accept moral responsibility for those around us. Abraham could have said, “Well he made his own bed so now let him lie in it.” How easy it would have been for Abraham to turn his back on Lot and the others and go on his way. But he didn’t. Luke 10:30-37 gives us a good example of how Yeshua sees moral responsibility. It is not our place to judge when we see someone in trouble but to do what we can. If they have made bad choices give them the tools/spiritual and practical to do better. If they do not do it we are able to stand before the Father and be clean because we tried.
c. Finally compare Noah and Abraham. G-d spoke to each man about what He intended to do. What does Noah do? What was Abraham’s reaction in Genesis 18 beginning with verse 16? Noah built an ark but as far as scripture is concerned does not say anything to his neighbors in order to save them. Nor did he speak to G-d on their behalf. Now in this week’s reading G-d spoke to Abraham and told him what He is going to do to Sodom. In Genesis 18:16-33 we read this extraordinary exchange between G-d and Abraham. Abraham spoke out and literally challenged G-d over His plans. In fact in verse 17 we see where G-d expected Abraham to challenge His decision. Abraham grasped the fact that the people of Sodom were also created in the image of G-d and were worth intersession. Here we learn whether we are personally involved or not, whether the people are good or bad in our eyes, we must intercede for them that they be spared and have the opportunity to know the L-rd.
So I pray that through this look at Abraham we can grasp what G-d has to say to us about how we live our lives each day. Judgment is best left to G-d. We are truly to be peace makers.
2.There is a Hebrew word we have discussed before but I would like us to look at it again. In Hebrew it is Hineini and is translated as Here Am I. If you read Genesis chapter 22 you will find it three times. It certainly does not mean “what do you want?” What is Avraham’s full message behind his response when G-d calls him each of these three times in this chapter.
The first time Avraham used these words was in the opening verse of chapter 22. We see in this verse that G-d purposed to test Avraham. G-d came to him as He had often before, not with thunder and lightning but with a simple, “Avraham.” Avraham was not startled by G-d’s voice. He had heard it often before. G-d said, “Avraham.” Avraham’s response was, “Hineini” or here am I. We can see that Avraham was at ease hearing from G-d. Now about this word, it does not mean, “what do you want.” No, it means something like, “Here I am, ready to listen and obey.” He didn’t have to work up his faith but he shows us something of his spiritual life. His life was a life built on prayer, meditation on G-d and a life strong in its connection with the Father.
The next time we encounter this word is in Genesis 22:7 when Avraham and Isaac were on their way to the mountain. Isaac spoke to his father, “My father” and Avraham’s answer was, “Hineini.” Think about what thoughts might have been going through Avraham’s mind. He could have said, “Son, I’ve got a lot on my mind right now. I can’t talk.” However he was so connected with the Father that he was able to say to his son, “Here I am, totally able to hear you and pay attention to your needs.”
The last time we see this phrase is in Genesis 22:11. As he is about to bring the knife down on Isaac the angel of G-d calls out, “Avraham!” He responds with “Hineini”. He had learned to say Hineini whenever G-d called. Even in a time like this his ear was trained to hear the call of G-d. This is how G-d wants us all to be able to live in faith. When He calls we can answer Hineini. It may require us to give our dreams over to G-d and grasp His plan for us. It may require hard choices by us, but also choices that will bring us closer to the Lover of our soul, choices that will bring us peace in our heart and spirit. So as we meditate on these verses may they draw us closer to the Father and when He calls we too can answer Hineini.
3.In Chapter 22 we see the binding of Isaac or the Akidah. Here G-d asked Avraham to sacrifice his only son. We do not see a word of protest from Avraham. When earlier Avraham argued with G-d over the lives of the people in Sodom why do you think he did not argue over the life of Isaac?
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 unrighteous? 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 living his life knowing G-d in a deeper way. 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.
4. In this Torah portion, Genesis 21 we read about the only recorded dispute between Avraham and Sarah. This dispute was only resolved when G-d interceded and commanded Avraham to follow Sarah’s request and send Hagar and her son away. Why do you think Abraham and Sarah had different opinions on what to do?
Let’s read the story in Genesis 21:6-10. They both are thrilled with fulfillment of G-d’s promise to them for a son. But then in verses 9-10 we read of a problem that came up. Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac and told Avraham that Hagar and her son must be sent away. In verse 11 we read where this troubled Avraham very much. Then in verses 12-13 G-d intervenes and tells Avraham to listen to Sarah’s voice and that his descendants will be numbered through Isaac. Avraham does as G-d says. First, why did Avraham resist sending them away? Surely he knew Isaac, the son of promise, would be his heir. For sure he loved Ishmael. As we have seen Avraham was a person filled with loving kindness. Maybe this quality got in his way and kept him from seeing clearly what to do. Maybe it took Sarah’s clarity of the situation to bring him back to seeing clearly. G-d told him to listen to her voice, not her words so much. He was to rely on her judgment in this situation. She was not being swayed by her own feelings as was Avraham. Because of this she could see more clearly what should be done. My point in all this is to remind us that our own knowledge of right and wrong cannot be tempered by our emotions. If we make decisions based on our feelings usually we miss out. Feelings are good and part of who we are yet they can’t be our only guide when making decisions concerning moral or spiritual issues. Only G-d can keep us centered on what we should do in a situation. Courage to follow our convictions is so important today when we are being urged on every side to just go along.
If Sarah had not stood on her faith in G-d’s promise that Isaac was the promised one, Avraham might have made a terrible mistake by relying on his natural quality of loving kindness. G-d grant us the wisdom to choose wisely as Sarah did.