The Parasha this week has the greatest number of words of any of the individual Sedras of Bereishit.
We read of a series of encounters with God, his angels or his messengers involving Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Abimelech and Hagar. It is difficult to tell if God is speaking directly or whether the messengers or the angels are the conduit for the message.
On the plain of Mamre, God appears to Abraham but is interrupted by the arrival of three messengers. They prophesy that Sarah will have a child and Sarah famously laughs. God asks why she is laughing and when she denies this the response is something like “O yes you did”.
God then carries on speaking with Abraham regarding Sodom and Gomorrah. He argues with God until God relents and agrees that if enough righteous men are found the cities will be saved.
We now come to Lot. Initially the angels speak with him, but it is God who finally speaks to Lot, allowing him to settle in Zoar.
Further on in the Parasha, Abimelech meets God in a dream and is told to return Sarah to Abraham.
When Sarah wants Hagar and Ishmael to go God once again speaks to Abraham telling him to let them go.
In the desert God listens to the cry of Ishmael and sends an angel to tell Hagar to rescue him.
In the Akedah, the sacrifice of Isaac, God speaks directly to Abraham telling him to go to Mount Moriah, but it is an angel who stops the sacrifice and then pronounces the blessing.
How do we recognise the voice of God? Is it by dreams, visions or through a messenger or a prophet? How would we react to sensing his presence? How would we know if it is real or just our imagination?
We can never really be sure if we are meeting God or mere humans in our lives. We can hope but need to be patient.
There are many ways to approach Judaism and a Jewish life. What we can do is to follow Abraham and say “hineni”,” here I am”, when we are called.