VaYera / And He Appeared
HafTorah Portion 2 Kings 4:1-37
Brit Chadasha 2 Peter 2:4-11
This parsha is named after the first sentence, Genesis 18:1 ‘The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.’
This Torah Portion contains the three Divine visitors to Abraham’s camp, the destruction of Sodom and the disobedience of Lot’s wife, therefore she turned into a pillar of salt. Lot takes shelter in a cave and his two daughters (believing that they and their father are the only ones left alive in the world) get their father drunk, lie with him and become pregnant. The two sons born from this incident father the nations of Moab and Ammon. God remembers His promise to Sarah, and gives her and Abraham a son, who is named Yitzchak, meaning “will laugh”. He is circumcised on the eighth day, which is the first recorded circumcision at the commanded time of 8 days. Genesis 21:4- ‘When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him’. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away, but God hears the cries, Genesis 21:17-19 -‘God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.’
At the end of chapter 21, is the treaty at Beersheba between Abraham and Abimilek. Genesis 21:27-31 -‘So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?” 30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.” 31 So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there.’
VaYera ends with the most complex test that Abraham was to face. Pirkei Avos / Ethics of the Fathers, teach that Abraham faced 10 tests.
1. God tells him to leave his homeland to be a stranger in the land of Canaan.
2. Immediately after his arrival in the Promised Land, he encounters a famine.
3. The Egyptians seize his beloved wife, Sarah, and bring her to Pharaoh.
4. Abraham faces incredible odds in the battle of the four and five kings.
5. He marries Hagar after not being able to have children with Sarah.
6. God tells him to circumcise himself at an advanced age.
7. The king of Gerar captures Sarah, intending to take her for himself.
8. God tells him to send Hagar away after having a child with her.
9. His son, Ishmael, becomes estranged.
10. God tells him to sacrifice his dear son Isaac upon an altar.
Genesis 22:1-19 is the account of the binding of Isaac. We often ask, why would Abraham be so willing to do something, when he was taught that child sacrifice was pagan practices? He knew that the Torah regarded child sacrifice as one of the worst of evils and child sacrifice was widely practiced in the ancient world. In 2 Kings 3:26-37 we read of how the Moabite king Mesha, in the course of war against Israel, Judah and Edom, sacrificed his eldest son to the god Chemosh.
The answer lies in Abraham’s response to Isaac in Genesis 22:8 -‘Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.’ Genesis 22:6-8.
He had such faith that he knew that God would provide the lamb. (Sefer Yashar states that this ram was from creation. A remarkable thing!) But what was the point? What was God was doing when He asked Abraham to offer up his son? He was not requesting a child sacrifice but something quite different. He wanted Abraham to renounce ownership of his son. He wanted to establish as a non-negotiable principle of Torah that children are not the property of their parents but rather that of God. God showed us that exact principle when He offered up His only begotten Son.
Abraham denied himself the right of ownership of his children. When we follow God and His Ways, we deny ourselves as stated in Matthew 16:24-26. But what does that mean to deny ourselves? It means to deny ourselves the rights that we assume we are owed. It means to follow Yeshua as He said, and follow the Ways of God. To embrace the Torah with complete love and regards to the Creator.
We deny ourselves to take revenge, Romans 12:19-20.
We deny ourselves the right to hate an enemy, Matthew 5:43-47.
We deny ourselves to understand God’s plan for our lives before we obey Him. Hebrews 11:8.
We deny ourselves the right to complain. Philippians 2:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
We deny our selfish thoughts. Philippians 2:3-4.
We deny ourselves to eat whatever. Leviticus 11.
We deny ourselves pagan holidays. Leviticus 23.
We deny ourselves sexual impurity. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
By living in the Ways of Elohim, by following the Messiah and being in the grace of God’s teaching and instruction, the Torah, and living in the Spirit of God rather than the flesh of man then:
We will receive blessings of rain, Leviticus 26:3-10.
We will be set high, Deuteronomy 28:1-2.
We will prosper, Deuteronomy 30:9-10.
We will live, Ezekiel 18:21, Deuteronomy 30:16-20
We will be like a river, Isaiah 48:18.
We will eat the best of the land, Isaiah 1:19.
We are the witnesses, Acts 5:32.
We will be justified, Romans 2:13.
We will be heard, John 9:31.
We will receive blessings, Deuteronomy 11:27.
Our needs are supplied, Philippians 4:19.
He will act for our sake, Psalm 37:3-5.
We will be blessed in the city and blessed in the field. Deuteronomy 28:3.
We will receive the crown of life, James 1:12.
We will be kept from evil, Psalm 121:4-7
We have a future and hope, Jeremiah 29:11.
We have great Shalom ~ John 14:27.
VaYera / And He Appeared
HafTorah 2 Kings 4:1-37
Brit Chadasha Luke 2:1-38
Do We See?
Vayera – and appeared to Him, YHWH was seen. In one instance or another within this parsha, people either see God as He appears in a multitude of ways, or they do not.
- Genesis 18:2 Abraham lifted his eyes
- Genesis 19:1 God appears in the form of two beings to Lot
- Genesis 19:24 God appears in the form of fire
- Genesis 20:3 God appears to Abimelech in a dream
- Genesis 21:12 God appears with a comforting voice
- Genesis 21:17 God hears the cries of Ishmael
- Genesis 21:19 God speaks to Hagar and opens her eyes
- Genesis 22:1 God appears to Abraham with a test –The Akeidah
- Genesis 22:11 God calls out
- Genesis 22:13 God physically provides the ram
- Genesis 22:16-18 God appears with blessings
Throughout Scripture there are a multitude of verses where God appears to people in many forms; fire, wind, breath, voice, dreams, smoke, voice and other people. Most importantly, He appears in and through His Word. Are we truly seeing the words?
Words can be read with the truth, with agendas, with perception, with opinion and with doubt. Words can mean one thing to someone and another to someone else. Words can be twisted, profound, daring, comforting and frightful. Words can heal, words can hurt. Words can lie and words can speak truth.
When we read and study the words of God today, are we truly seeing the truth or are we twisting them to our own agenda causing our eyes to not see the true God? If so, then He is not appearing to us in His way – the truth – but rather in our way. We are then seeing the version of a god that we created.
As we start at the foundation we see that Gods Word is The Truth.
- Psalm 119:160 ‘The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting’
- John 17:17 ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
- Psalm 119:151 ‘You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth.’
Yeshua being the Living Word/the Living Torah we can see how it is connected, it is the truth that is the Torah.
- John 1:1- ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.’
- John 1:14 ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.’
We hear the true voice: Psalm 76:8, Mark 1:11, Acts 11:9, John 10:27.
We feel the true God: Jeremiah 29:13, 1 John 4:12, Acts 17:28, Psalm 16:11.
We see God: Job 12:7-10, Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20
But when we listen to the voice of chaos, when we try to see the wicked, when we allow ourselves to feel and live in the ways of the world, we are deny ourselves the comfort and truth that is God and His Word.
This parsha is a great lesson for us as we read about Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26. Despite having been warned not to look back, Lot’s wife looked back anyway, and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt. It was not only a fatal act of disobedience, but an example to be avoided for all time. The second shortest verse in Scripture is Luke 17:32 and has just three words: Remember Lot’s wife! This is Yeshua warning His people: “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife.’ Luke 7:31-32.
We are not to look back into the past of disobedience, but rather we are to see God and His Word. We are to move forward into His Ways. We see God not only in the world around us, but also in His Moadim. Do we see God in the pagan holidays that man has created? Or do we see a god that man created?
Parallels we can see between Isaac and Yeshua:
- Both sons born miraculously
- Both fathers willing to sacrifice their only son
- Both sons willing to be sacrificed in obedience to their father
- Both sons sacrificed in the same place
- Both sons carried the word for their own sacrifice
- Both sons rode donkeys to the place of their sacrifice
- Both sons were bound (nailed) to the wood – The Akedah הָעֲקֵידָה (The Binding)
- Both sons lived
May we truly see, feel and hear the voice of The Lord in our lives.
VaYera / And He Appeared
In this Torah portion, God appears several times. In one situation or another, people are involved with either seeing or not seeing The Almighty, which is the case in our lives as well.
In Genesis 21:9 Hagar has her eyes opened to the well of water that YHWH has provided her. Whether the well was dug many years before her travail or it was placed there miraculously at that moment, it was all part of God’s plan.
In Genesis 18 Abraham is visited with the very presence of God, and in Genesis 22:4 Abraham sees the pillar of fire with the Shekinah of YHWH upon Mount Mariah while the servants traveling with Abraham did not.
By these three examples, we see the difference in the case of the appearance of God. In the case of Abraham, he was obedient even unto the possible death of his son, and he was the most humble as explained in Genesis 18:2 ‘He ran to the tent door to meet the and bowed to the ground’.
Can we make a connection between humility and one seeing the will of God? We can see through the Scriptures that the more humility the more connection we will have with God.
Psalm 119:21 ‘You rebuke the proud—the cursed, who stray from Your commandments.’
Psalm 10:4 ‘The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.’
Psalm 138:6 ‘Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar.’
Proverbs 16:5 ‘Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.’
God appeared to Abraham in Genesis 12:7, 17:1, 18:1. God appeared to Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. God appeared to Rabbi Shaul, Gideon and Manoah and his wife and Solomon. God appeared to Hannah, Mirian and Joseph.
God appears in fire, breath, smoke and wind, dreams and visions, even a hand. He appears as a burning bush, thunderings, lightnings and a thick darkness. God appears as a voice, a lamp and a smoking furnace. .
God also appears to us through His Word, His written Word; the Torah and through His Son, which is the Word incarnate. Through humility, we seek His Word, His Way, and His Walk.
But when God does appear to us, what is our responsibility? Responsibility is our responsibility. It is to be responsible to The Call of God. Adam and Eve lacked responsibility as they blamed the serpent and one another, even blaming God. Others have lacked responsibility as well; Cain lacked moral responsibility, and Joseph’s brothers lacked family responsibility.
We have the responsibility to first hear the call of God, acknowledge it and then act upon it. Often we don’t, but instead we ponder the call, sift through it, judge it and see if it will fit into our lifestyle. But that is placing our judgment equal to if not above the Call of God, which lacks humility.
James 4:10 ‘Humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.’
Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay Howard