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Today is Saturday, November 4, 2017, or Shabbat, the 14th of Cheshvan, 5778. Today’s parashat text is Parashat Vayeira, meaning, “he appeared”. The parashat text is Genesis 18:1-22:24.
Synopsis of the Parashat
Just days after the Covenant of Circumcision was entered into by Abraham and his household- all males, no matter the age, regardless of natural born or foreigner grafted in -Abraham is visited by three men near the trees of Mamre. These men, angels in disguise, enjoyed a delicious nosh with Abraham, then proclaimed that before the year circled the calendar one more time Sarah would birth a son. Sarah is heard laughing.
The angels, appearing as men, make their preparations to leave and relay to Abraham that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed by the hand of Adonai. Abraham, emboldened, pleaded with the angels because Sodom is where his nephew, Lot, lives. “Adonai said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ Abraham answered, ‘See now, I have taken it on myself to speak to Adonai although I am dust and ashes. What if there will lack five of the fifty righteous? Will you destroy all the city for lack of five?’ … He (Abraham) spoke to Him (Adonai) again, and said, ‘What if there are forty found there?’ … He (Abraham) said, “Oh, don’t let Adonai be angry, and I will speak. What if there are thirty found there?’ … He (Abraham) said, ‘See now, I have taken it on myself to speak to Adonai. What if there are twenty found there?’ … He (Abraham) said, ‘Oh don’t let Adonai be angry, and I will speak just once more. What if ten are found there?’ He (Adonai) said, ‘I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.’” (18:25-32).
Two of the angels now make their way into Sodom, where Lot and his family have a home. Lot extends a hand of fellowship and hospitality while protecting them from the evilness that is shown in such a vile manner through the inhabitants of the city. The angels reveal to Lot their intention- the destruction of Sodom -and mandates that Lot should take his wife and his two daughters and flee. In the midst of running, Lot’s wife looks behind her- all that she is leaving and all that she has left -and she became a pillar of salt.
Lot and his two daughters find shelter in a cave in the mountainous region nearby. His two daughters, believing that they and their father are the only three people left alive in the world, plot to get their father drunk and become pregnant by him. The oldest daughter birthed a son of the incestuous union with her father, and his name was Moab, which means, “from father”; this child becomes the father of the Moabites. The youngest daughter also births a son of the incestuous union with her father, and she also births a son- BenAmmi, which means, “son of my father’s people”. BenAmmi becomes the father of the Ammonites.
Abraham moves to a region of the Negev, Gerar, and while there King Abimelek of Gerar sends for Sarah and plans to take her as his wife. Elohim appears to the king in a dream, telling the king that unless he returns Sarah to Abraham death would come to him. The king returns Sarah and Abraham explains to the king that fear made him (Abraham) lie about his (Abraham’s) relationship to Sarah.
Abraham and Sarah, as Adonai promised, conceive a child and their son, Yitzhak (Isaac) which means, “he laughs”, is born; Abraham is one hundred years old and Sarah is ninety. And fulfilling the human side of the Covenant of Circumcision, Yitzhak is circumcised when he is eight days old.
Abraham must banish Hagar and Ishmael because of the jealousy that has been so prevalent between Abraham’s two wives- Sarah and Hagar. Hagar takes Ishmael into the desert and there prepares for her and her son to die. Elohim hears Hagar and Ishmael crying and intervenes, providing water for her and her son, and through all of Ishmael’s years to come, Elohim never forsook him nor left his side.
Later, Elohim tests Abraham’s devotion in a mandate to sacrifice Yitzhak, the child and heir of promise. Abraham and Yitzhak travel to the top of Mount Moriah, later the place of the Temple Mount, and there Abraham places his son, the son whom he loves so much, upon the altar. Just as Abraham raises the knife to sacrifice his son, a voice calls out, “Abraham, Abraham! … Don’t lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear Elohim, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (22:11-12). Abraham looked up and there, in a thicket of thorns was a ram, which Abraham sacrificed unto Adonai in the place of Yitzhak.
And, as Abraham returns again to his encampment, and routine is found again, Abraham receives news that Nahor, his brother, has a son, Bethuel, who becomes father to a daughter, Rebekah.
What does this mean for the Believer?
At the beginning of the parashat, Abraham offers fellowship and hospitality to the three strangers who visited with him. Later, two of these men received a similar fellowship and hospitality from Lot.
The blessing of hospitality.
The blessing of hospitality can be as simple as taking a jar of fresh, homemade Avocado Pickles to a friend who lives just up the street from you. It can be as simple as leaving a loaf of Zucchini Bread hanging on the doorknob of another friend’s door. It can even be as simple as buying a four-piece Chicken Nugget from McDonald's for yet another friend, while you chat it up with said friend. The blessing of hospitality might be a little more complex by purchasing a week’s worth of groceries for a family in need (my family has been on both the receiving end and the giving end of this blessing) or maybe you can have your plastic swiped for the car behind you to purchase his or her food at the drive-thru.
Beacon of Hope Ministries has involved itself in a program we have named Blessing Bags. These are simple nylon/vinyl drawstring bags filled with a bottle of water, some snacks, a Bible, a pair of socks, a toothbrush with toothpaste, some hand sanitizer, shampoo/conditioner, and a brush and/or comb. These Blessing Bags are handed to folks we meet on the side of the street or standing in front of a grocery store. Folks who are, for the most part, seemingly invisible to the general populous, but NEVER invisible to Elohim. Beacon of Hope Ministries does NOT do this outreach to hear, “Wow, that’s awesome.” No, we do this because charity, fellowship, and hospitality are exampled for us in both the Old and New Testaments and is mandated by Yeshua Himself (Matthew 25).
As you are out and about today, tomorrow, or in the coming week, at work, at school, at the grocery store- wherever -look to your left and look to your right. Look at who might be standing in front of you or who might be walking behind you. One of the people who fall into your line of vision needs something … he or she needs your charity, fellowship, or hospitality. Pray for and with that person, hug that person, offer that person a home-cooked meal or buy them a meal at a restaurant or fast food joint, evangelize to that person, and evangelive with that person.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited with me. I was in prison, and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)
Baruch Adonai yom yom ya’amos-lanu ha’EL Yeshuateinu.
Blessed be the LORD, Who daily carries our burden, the G_d of our salvation.