Vayera – “And He Appeared”

This week our Torah portion is Vayera, which means “And He Appeared.” Vayera covers Genesis 18:1-22:24. Genesis 18 begins with the Lord and two angels appearing to Abraham disguised as men. Abraham greets them and immediately offers his hospitality. During their meal of bread, meat, and milk, the Lord promises Abraham this time next year Sarah will have a son. Sarah laughs at this since she is around 90 years old and is ashamed when the Lord knows she has doubted Him.

Genesis continues with the Lord telling Abraham He plans to destroy the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah due to their sinfulness. Abraham, concerned for the innocent people there like His nephew Lot, pleads with the Lord to spare the cities if He finds 50 righteous people. The Lord agrees to Abraham’s request, who then continues to plead for the cities. The chapter ends with Abraham interceding again and again until the Lord agrees to spare the cities if ten righteous people can be found.

Chapter 19 begins with the two angels, still disguised as men, going down to Sodom to investigate the city. Lot meets them at the gate and shows great hospitality by inviting them to his home. However, all the men of the city, both young and old, surrounded Lot’s home and demanded the men be sent out so they can rape them. Lot pleads with them to not attack the men and offers his two virgin daughters to the crowd. The years Lot had spent in Sodom had clearly warped his perspective on morality. It’s hard to imagine the kind of thinking that made him believe giving his daughters over to be raped was the best solution for this mob.

The crowd still wanted the men and as they pressed forward the angels reached out and dragged Lot back inside the house, shutting the door behind him. They struck the mob blind so they could not find their way inside. The angels then told Lot the city was about to be destroyed and to take his family and leave. Lot went to his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters, but they thought he was joking and refused to go.

As dawn fast approached the angels rushed Lot, his wife, and two daughters from the city, telling them to run and not look back. As they fled, Lot’s wife turned back to look at the cities as burning sulfur rained down from the sky. She was turned into a pillar of salt for violating the Lord’s command. Even though less than 10 righteous people had been found, the Lord still saved Lot and his family. The Lord knew Abraham’s love and concern for Lot and chose to spare him from His righteous judgement. We can see here how the Lord goes above and beyond His promises to us and knows the heart of our prayers.

Chapter 19 ends with Lot’s daughters afraid in a cave, worried they will never have children. They decide to get their father drunk and rape him while he sleeps, knowing he will not willingly sleep with them, so they will have children. Each daughter takes a turn sleeping with their father after getting him very drunk and they are successful in their plot. But there are severe consequences for this sin. Lot’s daughters would have sons, but they would be the founders of the Moabites and the Ammonites, who would fight with our people throughout our history.

In Chapter 20, Abraham moves to territory of Abimelech, the Philistine king. Once again Abraham lies that his wife Sarah is his sister. The king then attempts to have Sarah added to his concubines. In a dream that night Abimelech is warned by Adonai that Sarah is Abraham’s wife and that he will be destroyed if he touches Sarah. Abimelech rushes to give Sarah back to Abraham and gives them gifts of animals and Silver. He also tells them to settle wherever they like in his land.

Chapter 21 records the birth of Abraham and Sarah’s son, named Isaac which means laughter because Sarah laughed when the Lord promised them a son. Hagar and Ishmael are also sent away in this chapter, with the Lord saving them in the desert and promising Ishmael will have a nation as well.

Chapter 22 contains the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. The Lord came to Abraham and told him to go up to a mountain and offer his son as a sacrifice. As they approached the mountain, Abraham went up only with his son, leaving his servants behind. He promises that they will go to worship the Lord and then come back. As they climb the mountain Isaac points out they do not have an animal to sacrifice.

Abraham tells him not to worry and that the Lord will provide the lamb for the offering. They reach the top of the mountain and Abraham prepares to kill Isaac with a knife before the Lord stops him. Adonai gives Abraham a ram to offer instead and tells Abraham that He has passed this test of his faith. The Lord reconfirms His promises to Abraham to bless Him and His descendants through his son Isaac.

Parasha Vayera has many lessons for us but one of the most important is how the culture we live in can lead us to great sins. We can see this with each member of Lot’s family. First, while Lot is considered a righteous man, we can see how the years he spent among the wicked people of Sodom had corrupted his thinking. His desire to protect his guests was righteous, but his solution was offensive.

Lot’s wife and future sons-in-law show us the difficulty in letting go of what we have known to embrace the Lord’s teaching. His sons-in-law did not trust Lot because they could not believe their amazing city could be destroyed and perished for it. His wife, whether out of longing or doubt, decided to take just one last glance back at the wickedness she was leaving, and lost her life for it as well. Their lives serve as reminders for us to not try and second-guess the Lord’s clear commands, but to trust and obey even when it is difficult.

Finally, we see how sin corrupts the next generation more than the last, with Lot’s daughters. Regardless of how they were raised by Lot, they came up with a very sinful solution for their problem of having no husbands. They knew that while Lot’s thinking had been skewed there was no way he would go along with something this sinful. So, they decided to rape him, which seems to be acceptable in the culture they came from. From this incestual union will come two peoples that will be our enemies for generations. Just one example is Haman who traces his lineage back to these sons. Clearly their sinfulness brought disastrous consequences.

As we consider parasha Vayera in our times, my prayer is that we would be encouraged to resist the sinfulness of the culture we find ourselves in. To not blindly accept what God has clearly called sin because it is popular. May we be able to look towards God and not back at what is dying. May the Lord also allow the next generation to be closer to Him, not farther, than the last.