Vayera – “And He Appeared”

This week’s Torah portion is entitled Vayera meaning, “And He Appeared.”  It covers Genesis, Chapter 18:1 to Chapter 22:24.

Chapter 18 opens with Abraham sitting by his tent and God, manifested in the flesh as Yeshua, appears before him with two angels.  Abraham invites these three to a meal and quickly tells Sarah to prepare bread while he goes and selects a choice calf to be cooked.  The three guests sit down to a meal of bread, meat, curds and milk.

During God’s visit with Abraham, He promises that Sarah will bear a child at the same time next year.  Both Abraham and Sarah are amazed, Sarah to the point where she doubts that this is possible.  But the Lord tells her that this will indeed occur.

Chapter 18 closes with God telling Abraham that He will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  Lot, Abraham’s nephew is living there with his family.  Back in Genesis, Chapter 13, Lot selected this area for himself.  He saw that this land was very fertile, and took it when Abraham gave him the opportunity to select land.  Lot only looked at the physical appearance of what he saw.  Later, he finds out that there is great evil there.   Abraham pleads with God to agree that if only 10 righteous people are found, than God will not destroy the city.  However, there are not even 10 people who are righteous in Sodom.  In fact, the city is a cesspool of evil.

Chapter 19 discusses the visit of the two angels, who were with God at the meal with Abraham, as they enter Sodom.  The men of the city try to have sexual relations with these two angels, which demonstrates how depraved the city had become.  The only thing left is for the angels to usher Lot, his wife and his two daughters out of the city.  Not even the sons-in-law will come with them.  As the city is being destroyed, Lot’s wife looks back, even though she was specifically told not to, and turns into a pillar of salt.  Only Lot and his daughters are saved.

In Chapter 20, Abraham takes Sarah and moves to Gerar, the land of the Philistine king, Abimelech.  Fearing for his life in hostile territory, Abraham passes his wife off as his sister and Abimelech takes Sarah to be his concubine.  But God warns Abimelech that total destruction will come upon him and his family if he touches Sarah.  Abimelech restores Sarah and gives gifts of sheep, oxen, servants and silver. He also allows Abraham to settle wherever he would like in the land.

In Chapter 20, the day of Isaac’s birth arrives just as the Lord said it would.  However, in time, Sarah’s jealousy of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, grows.  Sarah asks Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.  Although Abraham is quite distressed about this, the Lord tells Abraham that he should do this because it will be through Isaac that his descendants will be named.  Abraham does as God commands, and towards the end of Chapter 21, when it looks like Hagar and Ishmael are going to die, God intervenes to save their lives.

Chapter 22 talks about the binding of Isaac.  This is the ultimate test in Abraham’s life.  Abraham makes all the preparations, and God stays his hand at the last moment, substituting a ram for the sacrifice.

In summary, I would like to focus on three character traits that Abraham demonstrates through this parasha.

First, Abraham is the consummate host.  Almost immediately after being circumcised, he is visited by the 3 visitors.  Ignoring what surely must have been his personal pain, he looks after their needs.

Second, Abraham is the man of compassion.  In interceding for Sodom, he goes well beyond the thought of the day, which would have only been a concern for one’s own family as he reasons with the Lord to save as much of the city as possible, despite the existence of the evil that lived there.

As I thought about Abraham’s compassion, I was reminded how contentious this world has become.  Just having a different opinion than somebody else can bring on yelling and even worse like a physical altercation.  A couple of passages from Ephesians might be helpful in showing compassion and healing divisions.  Part of Ephesians 4:2:  …showing forbearance to one another in love.  And Ephesians 4:32:  And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.  I hope that the actions of Abraham and the words of Paul will be a reminder to us when there might be divisions or disagreements.

Finally, Abraham is a man of devout obedience.  In what was surely the most difficult test of his life, more difficult than sending Hagar and Ishmael away, Abraham shows no hesitation in hastening to take Isaac to the place that the Lord has commanded and to follow through with the Lord’s command to sacrifice his son.

I know that I could certainly do better in these three areas, looking after the needs of others, compassion and devotion to God.  These are key areas of demonstrating God’s love.  Fortunately, we have an even greater example than Abraham who was consistently demonstrating these and other qualities that we can emulate.  That was Messiah Yeshua.  May we always keep His example in front of us as we continue to interact with others throughout our lives.