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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Bereshit Vayera- 101
Posted November, 2000 - Reb Yosef

Parashat


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Vayera can be found starting at Bereshit Perek Yud-Chet (Genesis, Chapter 18) and continuing through all of Perek Chav-Bet (Chapter 22).  There are a number of significant points to this particular Parashah.  The first, and one of my favorites, comes from this section at the very beginning: 

9. They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "Behold! -- in the tent!":

10. And he said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold Sarah your wife will have a son." Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent which was behind him:

11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years; the manner of women had ceased to be with Sarah:

12. And Sarah laughed at herself, saying, "After I have withered shall I again have delicate skin? And my husband is old!":

13. Then Hashem said to Abraham, "Why is it that Sarah laughed, saying - 'Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?':

14. -- Is anything beyond Hashem?! At the appointed time I will return to you at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.":

15. Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was frightened. But he said, "No, you laughed indeed."

There are commentaries, although I was unable to locate them, that discuss the point of pasuk 15 wherein God says, only to Sarah, "No, you laughed indeed."  The Gemorah tells us that Hashem made an additional comment after the words quoted in pasuk 13 where He corrects His words to Avraham Avinu and suggests that Sarah did not laugh in order that Avraham would not become angry with her. 

From this lesson, we learn the importance of Sh'lom Bayit (Peace in the Home).  Sh'lom Bayit is so important to God that he actually broke one of His own rules and lied in order to protect the continuity, respect, and love to be found in the dwelling of Avraham and Sarah.  Certainly, this establishes the importance in God's eyes and opinion.  How could Sh'lom Bayit be any less important to ourselves? 

Parashat Vayera contains another important section found in Perek Chav-Bet and that is the binding of Yitzchak (Isaac).  The beginning says the following: 

1. And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham," and he replied, "Here I am.":

2. And He said, "Please take your son, your only one, whom you love -- Isaac -- and go to the land of Moriah; bring him up there as an offering upon one of the mountains which I shall tell you.": 

The Stone Edition Chumash offers the following notes with regard to this and another all important issue: 

Although the Sages state clearly that Avraham was tested ten times (Avos 5:3), there are several versions of what the tests were.  Following are the lists of tests given by Rashi and Rambam in their commentaries on the above Mishnah: 

Rashi 

1.      Abraham hid underground for thirteen years from King Nimrod, who wanted to kill him.

2.      Nimrod flung Abraham into a burning furnace.

3.      Abraham was commanded to leave his family and homeland.

4.      Almost as soon as he arrived in Canaan, he was forced to leave to escape a famine.

5.      Sarah was kidnapped by Pharaoh's officials.

6.      The kings captured Lot, and Abraham was forced to go to war to rescue him.

7.      God told Abraham that his offspring would suffer under four monarchies.

8.      At an advanced age, he was commanded to circumcise himself and his son.

9.      He was commanded to drive away Ishmael and Hagar.

10.   He was commanded to sacrifice Isaac.

Rambam 

1.      Abraham's exile from his family and homeland.

2.      The hunger in Canaan after God had assured him that he would become a great nation there.

3.      The corruption in Egypt that resulted in the abduction of Sarah.

4.      The war with the four kings.

5.      His marriage to Hagar after having despaired that Sarah would ever give birth.

6.      The commandment of circumcision.

7.      Abimelech's abduction of Sarah.

8.      Driving away Hagar after she had given birth.

9.      The very distasteful command to drive away Ishmael.

10.   The binding of Isaac on the altar.

That God tested, literally, the God. The same God Who had revealed Himself to Abraham and had given him Isaac as the culmination of his life's goal now tested him to see if he would give up his treasured son (R' Hirsch).

This is the only one of Abraham's Ten Trials that the Torah explicitly calls a test, because the others were carried to completion as he understood them -- Abraham actually left his homeland, sent away Ishmael, and so on -- but this one remained nothing more than a test, because God did not permit Abraham to slaughter Isaac (Abarbanel).

The second pasuk of this section offers two beautiful examples of Jewish works of commentary.  First, there is this from the Zohar:

Please take. Since Abraham was 137 and Isaac was 37, there was no way Abraham could force Isaac to go. Rather, he was to take him by persuasion to do the will of God. (Zohar) 

Second, there is this commentary from Gemorah (the Talmud): 

Your son. God did not immediately reveal to Abraham the clear identity of the intended offering. The Talmud records the conversation, as follows:

God said, "Take your son."

"But I have two sons. Which should I take?"

"Your only one!"

"But each of them is the only son of his mother."

"Whom you love!" God answered.

"But I love them both." 

"I mean Isaac," God replied. 

There were two reasons why God did not say directly, "Take Isaac." Firstly, He wanted to avoid giving a sudden command, lest Abraham be accused of complying in a state of disoriented confusion. [This is also a reason for having him travel for three days of reflection before carrying out the injunction.] Additionally, the slow unfolding of the offering's identity was to make the commandment more precious to Abraham, by arousing his curiosity and rewarding him for complying with every word of the command (Sanhedrin 89b; Rashi).  

The intention here is to take advantage of what the Stone Edition Chumash provides and to allow our users to see the words of the Zohar and the Talmud, two beautiful works of Jewish wisdom, for themselves.

________

Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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