Food For the Soul
The Parsha Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24) holds many insights, but the incident with Hagar and Ishmael deserves special scrutiny since Sarah is often wrongly cast as the villain by those with no understanding of Torah.
There was bitter tension in Abraham’s home. Which of Abraham’s two children would be the one chosen to carry on his legacy? Abraham favored Ishmael, since he was the eldest son and personified kindness; a trait he shared with Abraham. “While Abraham and Ishmael both performed kindness, the motivating force behind their actions could not be further apart,” writes Rabbi Menachem Feldman. Abraham’s kindness was motivated by his humility, Ishmael’s by arrogance. Sarah saw this and worried that Ishmael would have a negative influence on Isaac. Writes Chana Weisberg, “From observing the way Ishmael was behaving, Sarah discerned that he would hurt Isaac by either physically injuring him or spiritually harming him through his sinful ways. She would not –could not –risk having him in her home and took a zero-tolerance approach towards his bullying.” Although Abraham was hard-pressed to banish Hagar and Ishmael, he did so after G-d tells him, “Be not displeased concerning the lad [Ishmael] and concerning your handmaid; whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice, for in Isaac will be called your seed. But also the son of the handmaid I will make into a nation, because he is your seed.”
Sarah’s name means “princess” or “ruler,” adds Weisberg, “Sarah’s boldness and fearlessness serves as a model. Do we genuinely consider what would be the best for our children for their unique, personal development? Despite what society says, or what our neighbors, friends, co-workers, or relatives will say, are we prepared to do what will be most meaningful for ourselves and our families, without any fear of social rejection? Listen to her voice, G‑d said to Abraham. Find your voice of Sarah. Find your inner voice. Find the voice of nobility, strength, and boldness. Find the voice that intuitively knows the best path for your spiritual development.”
Based on the articles Why Ishmael was Rejected and Follow Your Convictions, Chabad.org
All kinds of miracles
Why are the lives of the sages filled with miracles? Because they open their minds to truth and labor over it day and night. They are the awakened mind of the cosmos—through them the Infinite Light enters this world.
So, of course, nature bows to them, the angels wait upon them, and everything is arranged to serve their mission.
But G-d makes all kinds of miracles and some blend seamlessly into the order of things below. These are impossible miracles: They break no rules, but change everything.In truth, they are the most awesome of miracles—these that reveal the Infinite unrestrained within the finite nature of everyday things.
This Shabbat, take some time to ponder the “impossible miracles” – big and small – that G-d performed in your life.
Inspired by The World at Your Feet and Miraculous Failure by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, Chabad.org.
Mind Over Matter
In training for miracles
The binding of Isaac was the last of ten tests with which G‑d tested Abraham’s faith, beginning with the time Abraham was thrown into a fiery furnace for his monotheistic beliefs—and miraculously survived. His faith, like a muscle, grew stronger with each challenge.
People who are tested will often say, “I never thought I could do that!” They are amazed at their own strength as they overcome the challenge. They look at their accomplishments as miraculous: “I’m naturally an impatient person; the fact that I became a patient parent is miraculous.”
Why does G‑d test us? The answer lies in the very word for “test,” “nes,” a word that means “miracle” as well. The test is there to bring out the miracle in you. To elicit strength that is uncharacteristic and unfamiliar. G‑d’s not ignoring you, He’s training you to be miraculous.
From the article Faith Under Fire, by Rochel Holzkenner, Chabad.org
Overcoming impediments and obstructions
The Messianic redemption, including its highest stage, is inherent already, even now-indeed, ever since the exodus-except that it still needs to become manifest in our physical reality. Consciousness and realization of this fact makes it so much easier to overcome all and any impediments and obstructions, in this world in general, in the era of the galut (exile) in particular, and especially so nowadays, at the very end of the galut, when we are on the threshold of the Messianic age and Moshiach is about to come.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Going the extra mile
To save a life, you go the extra mile. I saw this firsthand after learning that I had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). A group of five rabbis, most of whom didn’t really know me, took on the task of making sure my family was taken care of, and that I got the medical care I needed. Four years later, they are still there for us. And together with them, there are so many who have helped—financially, emotionally, showering us with love, meals and more.
It is a lesson we can learn from this week’s Torah reading, Vayeira, where G‑d tells Abraham that He is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorra. We read, “ . . . And Abraham was still standing before G‑d. And Abraham came forward and said, ‘Would You blot out the righteous along with the wicked?”
If Abraham was still standing before G‑d, why did he come forward?
Rashi explains that he didn’t come forward in a physical sense; he prepared himself emotionally to defend Sodom and Gomorra from annihilation. He approached the case in three ways: to argue harshly with G‑d, to appease Him and to pray to Him
We see that he did all three. First, speaking sternly, he said: “Would you blot out the righteous along with the wicked?!” In appeasement, he said: “It would be profane for You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are alike, that would be sacrilegious of you! Shall the Judge of the whole world not judge fairly!?” Then, in prayer, he said: “Behold I have begun to speak to my L‑rd, and I am dust and ashes.”
We are taught that Abraham manifested the attribute of loving kindness (chesed). In last week’s haftarah, G‑d even calls him, “Abraham my lover.” So it seems strange and out of character that Abraham opens his argument with stern words. Why doesn’t he begin with words of appeasement or prayer, and if that doesn’t work, then try stern words? That would be more in character with the Abraham we know. The difference is that there were lives on the line. The angel tasked with destroying Sodom and Gomorra was already on the way there. Abraham went against his nature and spoke sternly first, not making diplomatic calculations because lives were in the balance.
The stories of our forefathers are a lesson to us, his children. Just as we inherit from Abraham the kindness and the love that he had, we must be ready to take action when it is called for, as he did. When the well-being of another is on the line—whether it is his spiritual or physical well-being—it is not a time for calculations. It is a time for action, throwing yourself into the task with strong and effective action, even if it means going against your nature. To save a life, we go the extra mile.
To see the work of the children of Abraham in my life and the lives of my family is amazing, and we are so grateful. You have truly saved our lives. May the merits of the kindness and love that all of the Jewish people give be the mitzvah that tips the scale and sets in motion the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
By Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, The People Who Saved My Family, Chabad.org