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Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-24)

“He planted an eshel in Beer Sheva and there he proclaimed Adonai’s name,
God of the Universe.” (Genesis 21:33)

Parashat Vayera includes a series of high-stakes encounters: the three strangers/angels who predict Isaac’s birth (Gen. 18:1-15), the destruction of Sodom and Gemorah (Gen. 19:12-29), and the akeidah, or the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22:1-19). Each is a self-contained drama; together, they tell a story about the power of faith.

When Sara learns she will become pregnant, she doesn’t believe it; after all, she’s in her nineties. And she is scolded for her lack of faith. And when Abraham challenges God’s decision to wipe out Sodom and Gemorah, he acts on his faith in a just God. God rewards that faith by accepting his challenge (even though, in the end, the cities are destroyed). So far, so good.

The akeidah is a little more complicated. Usually, it is described as a test of Abraham’s faith; after all, what else would compel a father to sacrifice his son? But the focus on Abraham’s willingness to follow God’s command may be misplaced. After all, Abraham is surrounded by Gods requiring child sacrifice; that requires no imagination. What distinguishes the akeidah is God’s call to Abraham to refrain from killing Isaac, something that has never happened before in history. Abraham must take a real leap of faith to still his hand.

But God also makes a leap of faith that Abraham will in fact heed the angel’s call to stop. If Abraham doesn’t, Isaac dies. Faith, like trust, must be earned. Faith requires reciprocity.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom


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