Va-Yera – “And He Appeared”

Va-Yera is the fourth weekly Torah portion, spanning Genesis chapters 18 to 22. This portion continues the narrative of Abraham and his family through two huge events: the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah and the Binding of Isaac, where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his second son as a test of his loyalty.

The name “Va-Yera” means “And He appeared”, after the first several words of the portion. One can argue that these names are meaningless because the first words are chosen rather than a description, but the textual breaks are flexible enough that the rabbis who codified the names had a great deal of control over what each was called. In this passage, the “He” of course refers to God in his meeting with Abraham while en route to Sodom and Gomorrah. But on a more spiritual level, this portion shows God appearing in a way that He had not in previous sections of Genesis: he is showing his authority and power in a very public way that is as much a warning to others as it is a direct punishment for misdeeds. When God punished mankind in the flood narrative, the punishment was so universal that almost no one could have taken it as an example to do better. When God assisted Abraham in his struggles against Egypt and Chedorloamer, he did so privately and without spectacle. In that way, this portion shows the first time that God has “appeared” before all mankind.

More after the break.

Though I will probably shake things up as I go, right now I am planning on dividing this into several entries:

  • “Abram & Lot: A Tale of Two Dinners” – God appears first to Abraham, then to Lot, and tells them of his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. I’ll compare the meetings with the two  figures, both of whom argue with God to different ends.
  • “Lot: Turning Noah on his Ear” – The sad ending to Lot’s story. I’ll recount what we know of Lot so far in the Bible and why he gets a bad rap in Judaism.
  • I may or may not write something on Abraham’s experience with Abimelech, since I commented on that a few posts ago.
  • “Sarah Kicks out Hagar. Again.” – Sarah kicks Hagar out of the camp again and this time she doesn’t return. (Or, does she?) As this ends her story, I’ll summarize what we know of her so far.
  • “Binding of Isaac” – Abram plays a game of chicken with God.
  • Rashi on Va-Yera – Same as before, a quick summary of some of the interesting commentary on this portion by Rashi.

This is a great portion! I hope you keep reading along with me.

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