Weekly Reading Insights: Vayeira 5765



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Vayeira

To be read on 15 Cheshvan 5765 (Oct. 30)

Torah: Gen. 18:1-22:24; Haftorah: Kings II 4:1-37 (because of v.22, similar to the angels' promise to Avraham)

Vayeira is the 4th Reading out of 12 in Genesis and 4th overall, and 5th out of 54 in overall length.

Avraham interrupted a conversation with G-d to run and offer three people walking by a rest stop and food. They were angels from G-d, who told him that Sarah would have a son next year, and that G-d was about to wipe out Sodom. Avraham prayed for the people there. The messengers continued to Sodom, and were invited home by Lot. They told Lot to flee with his family, and not to look back. They ran, but his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. The five cities were destroyed. Lot and his two daughters moved into a cave. Thinking they were sole survivors in the world, the daughters got their father drunk and had his sons.

Avraham visited Gerar, announcing that Sarah was his sister. The king Avimelech took her, but G-d told him in a dream that she was already married and that he must return her to her husband. Sarah gave birth to Yitzchak, whom Avraham circumcised when he was eight days old. Avraham sent Hagar and Yishmael away, as Sarah did not want Yitzchak to share his inheritance. G-d promised Hagar that Yishmael would also become a great nation. Avraham and Avimelech made an oath regarding the well which Avraham had dug, and a peace treaty. G-d tested Avraham and told him to bring his son Yitzchak as an offering. At the last moment a voice from heaven stopped him, telling him that he had proved his faith. Avraham offered a ram instead. G-d blessed him that he would have many descendants.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:04-65/Vayeira)

When a person is in This World, he doesn't monitor and meditate on the reason for his being alive and his purpose in This World. Instead he thinks that all his days go by in a meaningless fashion, without any other reality involved as part of them, which is definitely not the case, as each and every day stands for eternity.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:03-65/Lech Lecha)

This is the mystical meaning of G-d's command to Abraham: "Go forth from your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you, and I will make you [there] into a great nation...."

When he went to the Land of Israel, he caused Zeir Anpin to develop and mature into the level of "intellectual" -consciousness.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:04-65/Vayeira)

He consulted with Mamre whether he should perform this mitzvah prior to being commanded, since, unlike other mitzvot, this one could only be performed once in his lifetime, and, as it turns out, is a commandment which very much hinges on performance on time (i.e. at the appropriate time).

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"He lifted up his eyes... and behold, three men were standing by him..." (18:2)
To Abraham the visitors appeared as men, but to Lot they looked like angels. Our ancestor Abraham was generous and kind, welcoming rich and poor into his tent with equal enthusiasm. Lot, by contrast, would only allow important people into his home. Thus there was no need for the strangers to appear to Abraham as angels, as his hospitality extended to everyone.
(Nifla'ot Chadashot)

"…He saw them and ran to meet them." (18:2).
Although Abraham did indeed run to greet his guests, extending himself greatly to provide them with food and hospitality, the mitzva of hachnasat orchim [hospitality] was never actually performed, for the angels only pretended to eat and partake of Abraham's largess. We learn from this that a person must always anticipate the needs of his guests to make their stay as pleasant as possible, even if later it proves to have been unnecessary.
(Sichat Hashavua)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:04-65/Vayeira)

"G-d has made laughter for me; whoever hears it will laugh ("yitzchak") on my account." (Gen. 21:6)
In the Messianic age, it is specifically of Isaac that we will say "for you are our father" (a verse from the book of Isaiah). The name Yitzchak is an expression of laughter and delight. "Laughter" refers to the supreme delight that will be revealed to the righteous in the World to Come. The Hebrew name "Yitzchak" ("he will laugh") is in the future tense, alluding to the time when this will take place. When Moshiach comes, the supernal joy and delight of our present service of G-d will be fully revealed.
(Torah Ohr)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:04-65/Vayeira)

Why was Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt (19:26)? Rashi, the main commentator on the Torah, quotes Midrash Rabba (an ancient traditional commentary) that because Lot's wife sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. This happened when the angels were invited home by Lot, who wished to fulfill the mitzvah of hospitality. When he asked his wife to give them some salt, she answered, 'Even this evil custom (of treating guest kindly by giving them salt) you want to enact HERE (in Sodom)?!'

Salt is connected to the Jewish tradition to rinse our fingers and lips at the end of a meal at which bread was eaten.* There are a few reasons given as to why we wash after the meal. Eating, in most cases, is not in itself a mitzvah. We eat to give life to the body. Yet the blessing we say after the meal is a mitzvah from the Torah (Dvarim 8/10). If, in order to purify ourselves, we wash before the meal - a physical event - how much more important to purify ourselves by washing after the meal, before reciting prayers!

Chassidim give another explanation. The meal is such a holy event, evil energies surround the table, each vying to steal some of the holiness away. Instead of fighting with them, we placate them. At the end of each meal, we wash off some of the tiny bits of food from our fingers and lips into a small bowl, which we put aside for them, as we would for dog or other pet, to leave us and our holy accomplishments alone.

Nevertheless, the main reason given for washing after the meal is to wash away the salt of Sodom that we used during the meal. While today salt is pure and refined, in previous generations salt came from salt flats - like in Sodom - which were filled with caustic chemicals. Rather than risk chemical burns, it became a custom to rinse off our fingers and lips from the salt.

According to this last and the most commonly mentioned reason, why should we have to wash our hands after the meal if we did not use salt specifically from Sodom? The book Ani Tefilati answers that the people of Sodom were so inhospitable, like Lot's wife, that they did not give their guests even salt. Salt itself is not food, it is a seasoning, and thus turned into a trademark for inhospitality. Take care of yourself, but ignore the requirements of those in need.

Our Rabbis instituted the custom of washing after the meal to forewarn against forgetting the needs of our guests, in particular when we have fulfilled our own needs. Wash off the salt of Sodom: wash away any vestige of stinginess; do not be blind to the needs of others. And then your meals will always be holy events.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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