May 19, 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 (וַיֵּרָא) – Genesis 18:1 through 22:24 – the fourth weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings.

Movie Poster from the film “Sodom and Gomorrah” (1962) starring Stewart Granger and Pier Angeli as Lot and his wife

According to Wikipedia, Vayera (aka Vayeira or Va-yera) 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 ebbs and flows like a Stephen King novel, filled with multiple intertwined narratives of an interrelated cadre of complex characters; a multilayered tapestry of supernatural story lines that slowly build to a cataclysmic firestorm finale. Cutaway to domestic bliss that morphs into a complex family dynamic and a pointed plotline of epic proportion that sets the stage for a sequel. Read about Abraham’s three mysterious visitors and how Abraham literally bargained with G-d over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Hear the twisted tale of Lot and his salty wife as well as the scandalous secret of Lot’s daughters. Learn about the miraculous birth of Isaac and the expulsion of Hagar and her son Ishmael, leading to a heart stopping climax with 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 for Shabbat November 4, 2023 aka the 20th of Cheshvan 5784:

Imagine that you are Abraham, sitting at the opening of your tent during the hottest part of the day, recuperating from your recent circumcision. You look out and see three strangers approaching . What is your response? If you are Abraham, you rush out into the desert and welcome the strangers into your tent. You wash the dust off their feet and you instruct your household to prepare a sumptuous meal for them.

Unbeknownst to you, the three strangers are really messengers from G-d- each with a specific mission. The first is sent to heal you- the Angel Refael- whose journey is specifically, healing. The second, Angel Gavriel, is sent to rescue Lot from wicked Sodom which will soon be destroyed, and the third, Michael, is sent to inform you and Sarah that you will be expecting a son, Isaac, in your elder years. What an amazing backdrop to a story which will eventually lead to three major events.

The first event, the destruction of Sodom and Gamorah, leads to the revelation of Avraham, the first attorney in the Torah, who argues and bargains with G-d, that, perhaps, there are some righteous people in the wicked cities who are worthy of salvation. Even if there are only ten such people (origins of the minyan) the cities worthy of saving for their sake.

In the second scenario, we see the angels who are welcomed into Lot’s home, accosted by the wicked inhabitants of Sodom who attempt to attack them. They are stricken with physical blindness, even though it is already apparent that they are spiritually blind. Lot and his family are rescued by the Angels but Lot’s wife cannot help but look back and is immediately turned into a pillar of salt.

Finally we read of the miraculous birth of Isaac, whose name means laughter, due to the joy of his mother of his birth at her advanced years. We come to understand, that because of the great hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, they are granted many blessings from G-d , which would also lead to the opportunity to perform even more Mitzvot. As the Rabbis teach – “Mitzvah Greret Mitzvah- The performance of one good deed leads to the performance of others” So too, we should realize, that, when we perform good deeds that it leads to the reward of many other opportunities to do additional mitzvot and live a blessed life!

Questions to Consider:

  1. How do we know that the Angels visit occurred during the time of year when Passover is observed?
  2. Why was Sarah so motivated for Ishmael and Hagar to leave?
  3. How old was Avraham at the time of the Akeida?
  4. What characteristic is observed when Eliezer the servant first encounter Rivka?
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.

Choose Shabbat; choose to celebrate, to light candles, sing songs and learn a little Torah.

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