This week’s Parashah is Vayera – Shabbat 16 November 2019
G‑d paid Abraham a visit, as he sat at the entrance of his tent. Abraham suddenly noticed three travellers passing by, and ran to invite them into his home. These passers by, who were actually angels in human disguise, accepted the invitation, and Abraham and Sarah prepared a sumptuous feast for them. The angels informed Abraham that Sarah would give birth to a child exactly one year later. Eighty-nine-year-old, post-menopausal Sarah, who was standing nearby, heard this assurance, and laughed. G‑d was displeased with Sarah’s lack of faith.
The angels departed, with Abraham escorting them on their journey. Their destination: the Sodom region; their mission: to destroy the five cities of the region, and rescue Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family, who resided there. G‑d informed Abraham of His intention to destroy Sodom because of the great evil of its inhabitants. Abraham attempted to save the region, asking that it be spared if it contains fifty righteous people. When it was apparent that this was not the case, Abraham “bargains” with G‑d – eventually asking Him to spare Sodom even if there are only ten righteous individuals there, but even ten were not to be found.
The angels arrived in Sodom, and Lot invited them to his home to eat and rest. Word of Lot’s guests spread throughout the city – a city that abhorred all acts of kindness – and the incensed residents of Sodom surrounded Lot’ house, with intent to assault the guests. Lot refused the demands that he surrender his guests, and – as the Sodomites prepared to break down the door – the angels struck all those surrounding the house with blindness. The angels informed Lot of their mission, and encouraged him to flee. Lot, his wife, and two of his daughters were escorted out of the city to safety, and were warned not to look back as the city was being destroyed.
G‑d rained fire and sulphur on Sodom, and then overturned the entire region. Lot’s wife looked back, and was transformed into a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters took shelter in a cave. Assuming that the entire world was destroyed, Lot’s daughter’s intoxicated their father with wine, and seduced him – in order to repopulate the world. They each gave birth to a son – the antecedents of the Ammonite and Moabite nations. Abraham relocated to the Philistine city of Gerar. Abimelech, the king of the Philistines, took Sarah – who was presented as Abraham’s sister – to his palace. G‑d afflicted the members of Abimelech’s palace with a disease, and appeared to Abimelech in a dream warning him to return Sarah to her husband, Abraham. Abimelech obeyed, and also showered Abraham and Sarah with gifts, and he and his household were healed. Sarah conceived, and at the age of ninety gave birth to a son, who was named Isaac. Abraham circumcised Isaac when he was eight days old.
Isaac grew, and Sarah noticed that Ishmael, Isaac’s older half-brother, was a potentially negative influence on her young child. She demanded of Abraham to expel Ishmael, along with his mother Hagar, from the household. Despite Abraham’s initial misgivings, G‑d tells him: “Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her voice!” Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the desert and eventually ran out of water. Ishmael was about to perish from thirst when an angel “opened Hagar’s eyes” and showed her a well of water. Ishmael grew up in the desert and became a skilled archer.
At that point, Abimelech approached Abraham and requested to enter into a treaty with him, whereby neither party will harm the other for three generations. Abraham agreed, but reprimanded Abimelech concerning a well of water which he had dug which was stolen by Abimelech’s subjects. Abraham set apart seven ewes, telling Abimelech to take them as a testimony that he, Abraham, dug the well. Abraham planted an orchard and established an inn in Beer Sheba and proclaimed the name of G‑d to all passers by.
G‑d commanded Abraham to take Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on a mountain. Abraham took along Isaac and necessary provisions, and set out for the mountain. They arrived and Abraham built the altar and bound Isaac. As Abraham stretched out his hand to take the slaughtering knife, an angel ordered him to desist. Abraham offered a ram, which was caught in a nearby thicket, in lieu of his son. G‑d promised Abraham great blessings as a reward for passing this difficult test. After these events, Abraham was notified that his sister-in-law had given birth to children. One of these children, Bethuel, was the father of Rebecca, Isaac’s future wife.