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Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

“But God had said: “Should I keep from Abraham that which I am doing?” (Genesis 18:17)

Parashat Vayeira includes some of the Torah’s most famous scenes: Abraham welcoming strangers into his tent; God destroying Sodom and Gemorah; the Binding of Isaac. Because these stories are so well- known individually, it is easy to overlook the thread connecting them.

Abraham’s tent is an isolated oasis of hospitality surrounded by the hostile desert wilderness. When three strangers happen by, he springs into action and activates his entire household to welcome them (Gen. 18: 1-8). Abraham’s values (and behaviors) are echoed later in the parasha, or portion, by his nephew Lot, whose home is an isolated outpost of hospitality surrounded by the hostile and xenophobic citizens of Sodom. When two of those strangers (now identified as angels) arrive at Lot’s door, he also rushes to greet, feed, and house them (Gen. 19:1-3). But Lot acts alone; he is a lonely steward of Abraham’s heritage.

Finally, at the end of the parasha, Abraham and Isaac leave the two servants behind when they climb Mt. Moriah to face God’s test of faith (Gen. 22:5). Yet, when Abraham descends afterward, he rejoins the servants (Isaac is absent from the text) and, “…they rose up and went to Beer Sheva, yachdav, together…” (Gen. 22:19) Despite having experienced the greatest spiritual encounter of his life, Abraham allows no distance between himself and his servants.

God expects Abraham to establish a legacy of, “…tzedakah umishpat, benevolence and justice… (Gen. 22:19). Abraham’s hospitality is a radical and counter-cultural act of universal identification: he makes no distinctions of familiarity, rank, class, or belief; he offers his presence and opens his home to every person he encounters, freely.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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