Torah Portion: Vayera (He Appeared) B’Resheet (Gen.) 18;1-22:22
HafTorah: II Kings 4:1-37
Tonight we read a Torah portion filled with much to say to us about our life of faith. We read in these chapters a great swath of Avraham’s life, the promise of a child, bargaining with G-d over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, the time with Avimelech where the king took Sarah after Avraham told him she was his sister. We also read of the banishing of Hagar and her son and ending with what is known in Hebrew as the “Akedah” or Binding. It is here that I want to spend most of our time this evening. Here we see G-d test Avraham and the result of that test. As we talk about this I ask that each of us put ourselves in his place and consider how we would have replied to this test. In fact, I would say all of us have or will have our faith tested in our walk with G-d through life. It probably will not be as dramatic as Avraham’s test but when it comes it will require us to plum the depth of our faith.
To help us with this quest I would like to use a Hebrew word that occurs in this reading for the first time in scripture. The word is, “Hineini”. In English it is translated as, “Here Am I.” We encounter this word three times in this chapter, the first time being 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 lightening 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.