Vayera – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

This week we read Vayera, the second Parasha of three, covering the life of Abraham. Parts of this Parasha are read at Rosh Hashanah; the story of Hagar and Ishmael is the Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah and the Akedah is our Torah reading for the second day. At this point Abraham is resting in Mamre after circumcision which he accepted as a sign of the covenant. However he still has no child by Sarah and the Promised Land is not his. What he does have is trust in God much as a child has trust in their parents. But trust goes both ways. God will go on to test Abraham. As children we trust our parents but also question them. So it is with Abraham. This is the first time that God is challenged. Abraham negotiates with God regarding Sodom and asks if the city can be saved. He asks

Will You even destroy the righteous with the wicked?

This is the beginning of that special relationship we as Jews have with God. We trust but we also question. The events in the Sedra are familiar. We read of the three visitors, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the episode with Abimelech where God intercedes to rescue Sarah, the birth of Isaac and the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael before the pivotal episode of the Akedah. When Abraham “went forth” from Haran in Lech Lecha he trusted in God. The same form of words appear at the beginning of the

וְלֶ֨ךְ־לְךָ֔ אֶל־אֶ֖רֶץ הַמֹּֽרִיָּ֑ה וְהַֽעֲלֵ֤הוּ שָׁם֙:
go away to the land of Moriah and bring him up there for a burnt offering

This would be an ultimate test by God. We are not talking about a young child here; Isaac is about 37 years old. Both must have trusted that obedience to God could not end in tragedy. In our relations with one another and even with God doubt, disagreement and argument are part and parcel of our existence. We all face choices and decisions but ultimately trust underpins society.

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