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Vayera

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

In this week's Parsha, we learn more about our forefather Abraham - a paragon of kindness and giving, and a man totally dedicated to rejection of polytheism and to acceptance of the one G-d.

His kindness is evidenced when he is found sitting at the door of his tent, three days after his own Bris Milah (Medrash). The Medrash tells us that G-d deliberately made it hot, so that travellers would not go out - and Abraham would have the chance to rest and recuperate. But Abraham was so bothered that there were no guests in his tent (which was deliberately built with four doors - North East South and West - in order that guests would always find an open door facing them) that G-d sent him angels, dressed as men. And Abraham, on the most painful day of recuperation from his Bris Milah, went running to serve them.

Abraham's hardest test of them all comes at the end of the Parsha. After demonstrating his kindness for so long, he is told to be cruel... to his own son. After telling everyone that there is only one G-d, and that He does not want people to sacrifice their children to idols... Abraham is called upon to sacrifice his own son.

Is it possible for us to imagine what a laughingstock Abraham would have been? From an early age, he had rejected idols and promoted monotheism. He had smashed idols - for which he was thrown into a furnace, from which he emerged unscathed. And he had made his life's work spreading kindness, charity, and monotheistic belief in G-d. Throughout, he had been "pounding on the pulpit," telling people that sacrificing their children is wrong. It's immoral (and who else but he believed in morals, anyway?)! It must stop! And now... he sacrifices his own son?

And G-d had promised that He would make Abraham into a great nation. Not through Ishmael, not through any of his other children, but specifically through Isaac, who carried forward the same beliefs and dedication to G-d. And now... he sacrifices him!

But what happens? When G-d calls, Abraham says "Hineni!" - "Here I am!" G-d tells him what to do, and he jumps out of bed in the morning - "And Abraham arose early in the morning..."!

The message is clear: Abraham did what was right - not what was popular. Had he decided to be popular, he would have remained an idol- worshipper. Had he decided to remain popular - to run his new synagogue like a good business - he would have refused to sacrifice Isaac, and never would have become "the Beloved of G-d."

So too, we are often called upon to do what is right, rather than what is popular. In the merit of our forefather Abraham, we should always merit to pass that test!


Text Copyright © 1994 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 

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