By Rabbi Aron Tendler
In the year 2047, Avraham's circumcision physically set him apart from all
other men. This was the final act of "speciation" within creation, and
Avraham emerged as a new species within humankind. As with all species, this
new species of human was "whose seed is within it", and was obligated to
maintain the natural code of "each according to its own species".
Before this moment, it was impossible for Sarah to have children. Only
after undergoing the name changes and circumcision were Sarah and Avraham able
to create Yitzchak. The first born Jew to emerge upon earth had to be the
result of a new, spiritually genetic creation. In a staged setting befitting
this final act of creation, the Creator Himself visited the healing Avraham as
he sat "in the heat of the day". It is proper that Hashem and a heavenly
tribunal of angels should have attended the event of Yitzchak's birth. Their
sitting together and enjoying Avraham's hospitality was a celebration of this
Following the foretelling of Yitzchak's birth, the Torah turns its
attention to "Justice", the most important manifestation of Hashem's
relationship with humankind. The story of Sodom, her trial, sentencing, and
final destruction, is intended to show the world what the Jew is. We are the
caretakers of Hashem's children, humankind. In an amazing confrontation with
G-d, Avraham asked G-d to justify the destruction of Sodom. G-d allowed
Avraham to understand that evil can not always be rehabilitated. On occasion,
it must be eradicated.
Reminiscent of the Mabul, G-d introduced His final creation, the Jew, to
the harsh realities of true Chesed. Misplaced mercy is often the greatest
evil, while the utter destruction of evil can be the greatest kindness. Sodom
could not and should not have been saved. Avraham, as the "father of nations",
as the impassioned teacher, had to argue on behalf of compassion and "one more
chance". Yet, when all negotiations proved unrealistic, Avraham accepted G-
d's decree and moved on.
Continuing the theme of divine justice, the next scene in the Parsha is
the actual destruction of Sodom in the year 2047 and the extraction of Lot and
his daughters from the conflagration of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the merit of
Avraham and Sarah, Lot and his daughters were spared so that they could father
the nation of Moav, from which Ruth, the great grand mother of King David and
Mashiach, would be born.
As with creation, justice must have clear and distinct boundaries. Just
as the species are separate from each other, so too must justice and injustice
be separate. Therefore, the Almighty showed that His justice differentiates
between just and unjust. Whether the single Tzadik like Noach, or an
individual like Lot, G-d can always differentiate between the righteous and
the evil by saving the good from the destruction of the evil.
With the birth of Yitzchak, the relationship between Avraham and the non-
Jewish world was addressed. Through the creation of Mashiach the Jew and the
non-Jew would be partners in the eventual redemption of the world; however,
the mission of the Jew is to teach divine values to humankind in preparation
of that moment.
In an intentional contrast to his previous confrontation with Pharaoh, Avraham
encountered the righteous Avimelech. The outcome showed the difference between
a divine value system and one designed, with the best of intentions, by
limited human intellect. "... I realized that the one thing missing here is
the fear of G-d." (20:11) Avimelech, in contrast with Pharaoh's insistence
that Avraham leave Egypt, asked Avraham to dwell among the Plishtim and teach
them the ways of divine justice.
In a further display of divine justice, Sarah, the paragon of chesed,
demanded that Yishmael and Hagar be sent away from Yitzchak. Avraham obeyed
Sara's wishes and Yishmael was sent out to meet his personal destiny. In many
ways, what appeared as callous insensitivity proved to be the greatest benefit
for both Yitzchak and Yishmael. As G-d said to Avraham, "...do everything that
Sarah tells you". (21:12)
Our greatest challenge is to trust G-d at times when our emotions and
intellect rebel against the seeming irrationality of His justice. It is the
lesson Avraham imparted to Avimelech; the lesson that Sarah taught Avraham in
forcing Yishmael out of the house; and it is the lesson taught by the final
chapter of Vayera, the Akeidah. The obvious contradiction to every rational
value and feeling challenged Avraham and Yitzchak to confront the degree of
their own trust in the Creator and prove their worthiness as His final
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.