April 17, 2024
Parashat Vayera

When you Choose Shabbat, you choose to learn that every Shabbat is different and special. This week I learned about Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1 through 22:24), the fourth weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings. According to Wikipedia, Vayera has the most words (but not the most letters or verses) of any of the weekly Torah portions in the Book of Genesis; its word-count is second only to Parashat Naso in the entire Torah. Vayera is made up of 7,862 Hebrew letters, 2,085 words, 147 verses, and 252 lines of the Torah Scroll. The other Book of Genesis record holders are Parashat Miketz with the most letters and a tie between Parashiyot Noach and Vayishlach for the most verses.

Vayera almost reads like a Stephen King novel; an intertwined narration of multiple story lines that come together for a climactic finale. Read the tale of Abraham’s three visitors, Abraham’s bargaining with God over Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s two visitors, Lot’s bargaining with the Sodomites, Lot’s flight, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, how Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father, how Abraham once again passed off his wife Sarah as his sister, the birth of Isaac, the expulsion of Hagar, disputes over wells and the binding of Isaac (הָעֲקֵידָה‎, the Akedah).

Rabbi Michael D Klein of Temple Torat Emet offers his insights on this week’s Torah reading, Vayera:

There is a poignant story told of a great Rabbi who was imprisoned in a concentration camp during Chanukah, 1945. Somehow he was able to light the Chanukah candles on the first night and recite the first two blessings but hesitated before reciting the third blessing – the Shechechyanu, surrounded by so much suffering and death. As he looked around at the emaciated prisoners, he realized that the third blessing would give them hope to survive another year even though the chances of survival were slim. He then proceeded to recite the third blessing, not knowing if even he would even be alive to recite them again. Upon his rescue, several months later, he shared this story with his followers and fellow survivors and told them that he now fully understood that the 10 tests which G-d gave to Avraham Avinu were really meant as examples to the living, that, despite, incredible hardships, the Torah was given to the living as a testimony of survival despite seemingly impossible conditions.

When I read the story of the Akedah, contained in this weeks Sedra, I often wonder why of all the tests given to Avraham Avinu only the 10th and final one included Isaac. Why? Perhaps G-d was teaching Avraham and us an important lesson. When we review the details of our lives and share them with our children and grandchildren, maybe we are not supposed to leave out any details-even the difficult ones. Our children need to know that life is not always easy or fair, but that there is always hope for the future when one has faith and courage. I cannot even imagine the courage it took for Avraham and Yitzchak to face the possibility of the Akedah- becoming a sacrifice on the altar. I believe, that this was G-d’s way of transmitting to Yitzchak, the great challenges that his parents had faced and the courage he would also need for the future to be able to continue the faith and tradition of the Covenant.

Rabbi Michael D. Klein

Rabbi Michael D. Klein attended Yeshiva College of South Florida and served as Torah Reader, Hebrew teacher, Chazzan and spiritual leader of various synagogues throughout South Florida. In January 2015 he became Ritual Director, Bnai/Bnot Mitzvah instructor and 7th grade Hebrew instructor for Temple Torat Emet of Boynton Beach. In October 2019 he was accepted into an accelerated track and received his shicha from Yeshiva Adath Wolkowisk and has been the Rabbinic leadership of Temple Torat Emet since August 2020. In September of 2022 he was appointed Rabbinic and Spiritual Advisor of the Florida Region of FJMC.

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