Lots of stories this week: Three angels confirm that Sarah and Abraham will have a son. Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed but Lot and his daughters are rescued. Abraham again tells a host ruler, this time Abimelech, that Sarah is his sister (OK, he’s afraid for his life and she actually is apparently his half-sister (see 20:12 and also the lack of the names of Sarah’s parents in 11:29), something understandably soft-pedaled in the Torah). Isaac is born, named, weaned. Ishmael and Hagar are banished. Abraham and Abimelech come to an accord over wells. And Abraham almost sacrifices Isaac, the incident referred to as the “Akedah” (binding).
Throughout this portion, we learn more about the relationship between Abraham and the Lord, which is more advanced than Noah’s and presages that of Moses. In 18:1, we read that the Lord appears to him, without any particular reason, like a command or a new revelation (unless one equates the Lord in 18:1 with the three visitors in 18:2). At 18:17-19, the Lord ponders how much to tell Abraham about the impending doom of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him? For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right…” So he takes Abraham into his confidence and, sensing that this is a teachable moment (one Noah wasn’t capable of, though many more were about to be destroyed), allows his protege to argue on behalf of the (unfortunately nonexistent) righteous inhabitants of the cities, as Moses will be allowed to argue (more successfully) for the Children of Israel centuries later.
We also learn that Abraham is a good and generous man, at least to those outside his immediate family. He runs to meet the three visitors and joyfully arranges ample hospitality for them, while having no knowledge of who they are. He looks out for his nephew Lot. He cares for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He loves both Ishmael and Isaac. Yet his focus and generosity are mainly directed outward (or upward?), and his family, like that of Moses, suffers as a result. He refuses to intervene between Sarah and Hagar when Hagar is pregnant. He is distressed but agrees to banish Hagar and Ishmael, with few provisions. He risks Sarah’s safety on two occasions. And, when commanded to sacrifice his beloved son, not only does he not argue, but he does not even discuss it withe Sarah. When we read about the Akedah, we are explicitly told this is a test of Abraham (22:1), and we’re pretty certain Isaac will survive, since he has no progeny yet and the Lord has not cancelled the promise that the great nation will come from Abraham through Isaac. But it is not clear that Abraham really “passes” the test by putting obeying the Lord’s command above his love for Isaac. 22:19 reads “Abraham returned,” in the singular,to his young servants. Whether or not Isaac is with him at that point (there is rabbinic folklore concerning this), it is clear that Abraham is alone. The Lord never speaks to him again. And he is about to lose his wife Sarah as well.
Jewish groups step up efforts to combat anti-Muslim bigotry
Speaking of Ishmael, you might find this article of interest in light of recent events and growing Islamophobia in the U.S. [thanks for the link, Stanley!] It was published right before Rosh Hashanah and called on rabbis to devote Shabbat Shuvah sermons the following Saturday to the issue. It was a multidenominational effort.
[It’s that time again]
Top Ten World Series References in Parshat Vayera
by weekly bang staff Posted: 10-27-2007(Viewed 1263 times)
10. Avraham kicked dirt on The Ump, Hashem, arguing the call to destroy S’dome [Sodom]
9. Lot’s wife became the first pitcher’s mound
8. The Astrodome, Skydome can’t compare to S’dome
7. Boston winning another series?? That’d make even Sarah laugh
6. Avraham and Avimelech cut a deal and call the place “Beer Sheva”, instantly making getting a beer in the 7th inning a mitzvah
5. Sarah kicks Hagar and Yishmael out together – a double play
4. Youkilis* = You Kill is(aac)??!
3. Avraham took off his shoes on the holy ground, exposing the Red Sox
2. Avraham relieves starter Yishmael, bringing in Yitzchak for the save
1. Hashem brings in the goat** to close.
* Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis, 2004-present, first and third baseman
**actually, a ram
Science and Health Test Answers [selected]
A teacher forwarded this list of comments from test papers, essays, etc., submitted to science and health teachers by elementary, junior high, high school, and college students. As she noted, “It is truly astonishing what weird science our young scholars can create under the pressures of time and grades.”
“H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water”
“When you smell an odorless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide”
“Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water.”
“Three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes and caterpillars.”
“Respiration is composed of two acts, first inspiration, and then expectoration.”
“Dew is formed on leaves when the sun shines down on them and makes them perspire”
“Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas.”
“The pistol of a flower is its only protections agenst insects.”
“The skeleton is what is left after the insides have been taken out and the outsides have ben taken off. The purpose of the skeleton is something to hitch meat to.”
“A permanent set of teeth consists of eight canines, eight cuspids, two molars, and eight cuspidors.”
“Equator: A managerie lion running around the Earth through Africa.”
“Germinate: To become a naturalized German.”
“Liter: A nest of young puppies.”
“Rhubarb: A kind of celery gone bloodshot.”
“Vacuum: A large, empty space where the pope lives.”
“To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose.” .”
“To keep milk from turning sour: Keep it in the cow.”
Is Your House Disheveled? [abridged]
Suggestions for when you have guests…
Dirt: Layers of dirty film on windows and screens provide a helpful filter against harmful and aging rays from the sun. Call it an SPF factor of 15 and leave it alone.
Pet Hair: Explain the mound of pet hair brushed up against the doorways by claiming you are collecting it there to use for stuffing hand-sewn play animals for underprivileged children. (Also keeps out cold drafts in winter).
Guests: If unexpected company is coming, pile everything unsightly into one room and close the door. As you show your guests through your tidy home, rattle the door knob vigorously, fake a growl and say, “I’d love you to see our den, but Fluffy hates to be disturbed and the shots are SO expensive.”
Dusting: If dusting is REALLY out of control, simply place a showy urn on the coffee table and insist that “This is where Grandma wanted us to scatter her ashes.”
Another favorite, from Erma Bombeck, I think: Always keep several get well cards on the mantle so if unexpected guests arrive, you can say you’ve been sick and unable to clean. You figure if you can live in it, they can surely stand it for a 30 minute visit!
Thanks, Anita in L.A.
There was once a couple in their seventies who, nevertheless, had a baby. Of course the newspaper sent out a reporter to take and picture and write a story about this unusual event, but when he arrived the couple told him that he would have to wait until the baby woke up before taking the picture.
Meanwhile the local radio station sent out a crew to get a story of the baby and his elderly parents. They, too, were told that they would have to wait until the baby woke up before they could see the baby.
The news of this miraculous event had, meanwhile, spread far and wide, and CNN news sent a crew to get a story and take pictures of the baby and his parents. This crew, also, was told that they would have to wait for the baby to wake up before they could take pictures.
Then one of the group asked why they would have to wait; surely they could see and take pictures of the baby even if he were asleep.
“Well,” the parents said, “you will have to wait until the baby wakes up and cries, because …
we have forgotten where we put him.”