Monday, October 25, 2010

Vayera round-up, and this year’s thoughts

I'm working on getting in the habit of reading the parsha/weekly Torah/Bible reading in advance. In the meantime, though, borrowing an idea from DovBear, who does this frequently, I'm going to link to some of my previous posts on the subject of last Shabbat's reading, Vayera:

Some thoughts from this past Shabbat:

  • What's the big deal about Avraham having served his guests dairy and meat in the same meal? The laws of kashrut couldn't possibly have been binding then because the Torah hadn't been given yet! (In my opinion, the rabbis created unnecessary problems for themselves by articulating the idea that there's no early or late [ein mukdam u-meuchar?] in the Torah.)
  • Sarah did not lie when she told G-d that she had not laughed--the text says quite clearly that she laughed "b'kirbah," "within herself," which is not the same as laughing out loud.
  • Lot's daughters learned too well--he taught them that their respectability could be sacrificed in case of need, so they sacrificed their respectability when they thought that there was a need.
  • I'm developing some sympathy for Sarah in my old age. She drove out Hagar's son Yishmael/Ishmael in order to protect Yitzchak/Isaac, her own son.
  • My husband's contribution: Akeidat Yitzchak/The Binding of Isaac was a test for Yitzchak, as well. If he hadn't been a willing sacrifice, he would have been unworthy to perform his own mission.
  • It appears that HaShem wasn't so thrilled with the fact that Avraham went along with the Akeidah without protest--afterward, HaShem never spoke to Avraham again. (I don't think that this observation originated with either of us, but I can't remember where I read it.)
  • Last but not least comes my big gripe of the year: Why is Avraham nicer to strangers than to his own family? He argues repeatedly with G-d not to destroy S'dom and Amorah (Sodom and Gemorah), but says not a word when G-d tells him to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. He shows hospitality to total strangers, yet sends his son Yishmael packing with nothing but bread and water. All HaShem said was "Sh'ma b'kolah," listen to her (Sarah's) voice. HaShem never suggested that Yishmael and his mother Hagar should be sent off into the desert with limited means of short-term survival and no means of long-term support. Judging by the text, Yishmael had to have been over 14 years old at the time of his expulsion. Avraham could have given him a parting gift of, for example, a small flock of goats. Why didn't he?

Here's DovBear's take.


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Lot's daughters strike me as an example of middah keneged middah (measure for measure) punishment. He showed no concern over their sexual well being and they returned the favor.

Tue Oct 26, 01:55:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

I had a long discussion with one of my FFB friends about the idea of Hashem not being pleased with Avraham after the Akedah. He wasn't very impressed with the idea. Among other issues, he pointed to a midrash that says the 'Avraham, Avraham' refrain when Avraham is about to sacrifice Yitzchak is actually said by two different characters - first the angel (and Avraham continues on) and then Hashem.

Tue Oct 26, 01:58:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, thanks for the link--I think you made a very good point in that post.

Tue Oct 26, 03:16:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sorry to keep you waiting for the rest of my response, but I needed to go check a reference:

16 and said: 'By Myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son,

17 that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

18 and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast hearkened to My voice.'

Your FFB friend's point of view certainly has a firm basis in the text--Avraham is rewarded for not withholding Yitzchak. But it's equally true that HaShem never speaks to him again. Maybe HaShem was ambivalent.

Tue Oct 26, 03:22:00 PM 2010  

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