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Vayeira in a Nutshell

Vayeira in a Nutshell

Genesis 18:1–22:24


G‑d reveals Himself to Abraham three days after the first Jew’s circumcision at age ninety-nine; but Abraham rushes off to prepare a meal for three guests who appear in the desert heat. One of the three—who are angels disguised as men—announces that, in exactly one year, the barren Sarah will give birth to a son. Sarah laughs.

Abraham pleads with G‑d to spare the wicked city of Sodom. Two of the three disguised angels arrive in the doomed city, where Abraham’s nephew Lot extends his hospitality to them and protects them from the evil intentions of a Sodomite mob. The two guests reveal that they have come to overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command not to look back at the burning city as they flee.

While taking shelter in a cave, Lot’s 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.

Abraham moves to Gerar, where the Philistine king Abimelech takes Sarah—who is presented as Abraham’s sister—to his palace. In a dream, G‑d warns Abimelech that he will die unless he returns the woman to her husband. Abraham explains that he feared he would be killed over the beautiful Sarah.

G‑d remembers His promise to Sarah, and gives her and Abraham a son, who is named Isaac (Yitzchak, meaning “will laugh”). Isaac is circumcised at the age of eight days; Abraham is one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, at their child’s birth.

Hagar and Ishmael are banished from Abraham’s home and wander in the desert; G‑d hears the cry of the dying lad, and saves his life by showing his mother a well. Abimelech makes a treaty with Abraham at Beersheba, where Abraham gives him seven sheep as a sign of their truce.

G‑d tests Abraham’s devotion by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem. Isaac is bound and placed on the altar, and Abraham raises the knife to slaughter his son. A voice from heaven calls to stop him; a ram, caught in the undergrowth by its horns, is offered in Isaac’s place. Abraham receives the news of the birth of a daughter, Rebecca, to his nephew Bethuel.

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Todd US November 13, 2016

G-d of the living The miracle of Isaac is not so much the testing of Abraham, although our faith is tested from time to time, it's the point where G-d destinguishes himself from the false and pagan gods who require child sacrifice. In this instance G-d is G-d of the living, the true and only G-d. Reply

Shaul Wolf November 10, 2015

Re: Hahn Technically, you are correct; the term "Jew" would not have applied to Abraham. Nevertheless, Abraham is considered the father of the Jewish people and the first to enter into a personal covenant with God.
See our article here for more details. Reply

Johnny /Yochanan Gutierrez azusa October 30, 2015

Akeidat Yitzhak The word is "נער" translated as "lad". How old would Isaac have been at the Binding ? Reply

Hahn Texas October 29, 2015

How is Avraham the first Jew? To be a Jew, one must be the legacy of Judah. Avraham came before Judah. Therefore Avraham was not Jewish. Reply

Mayer Bassirat Los Angeles November 2, 2017
in response to Hahn:

Hahn, I couldn't agree more. I don't understand how these Torah educated people call Avraham or Moses "Jew"? Reply

Anonymous Northbrook December 6, 2014

Hinduism vs Judaism Hinduism first started in 3000 BCE. This year is 5775 in the Jewish Calendar and 2014- almost 2015 in the Gregorian calandar. This means that Judaism started in 3760 BCE, meaning that Judaism is actually the oldest religion. Judaism also believes to an extent in astrology and nature. However, we also believe that its important to make a good faith effort in everything that we do in our lives as well. Reply

Anonymous November 7, 2014

So since Hinduism has Brahma and Saraswati, and their tradition is older than Judaism....Why does Judaism say they have true story of Abraham? Also, since it's all from Astrology and Nature, why are people still materializing the matters....Natures forces are being personified as people and we argue over who's right....uummm ?? Reply

Immanuel November 3, 2014

Not the 1st Jew... @ Gabriel. You're absolutely right. Abraham was not the first Jew or Yahudi, as a Jew (Yahudi) is simply one of twelve tribes. He was the first Hebrew. Hebrew means one who crossed over. Of course in the physical Abraham crossed over into the promised land, but in the spiritual he crossed over by leaving his fathers and his communties pagan traditions behind and becoming heavenly minded. Thus he was the 1st. Ibri (Hebrew). Reply

Menachem Posner Montreal October 20, 2013

To Edgar Human sacrifice was practiced in those days.We know this because G-d forbids in in the Torah. He never actually wanted Abraham to go through with it in the first place. He was just testing Abraham's devotion, seeing if he was willing to sacrifice his son. Reply

david k. Utah October 20, 2013

Why did Lot's wife look back? I don't understand why Lot's wife looked wife looked back and if there's any significance in turning in to a pillar of salt instead of some other type of punishment. Is there a reason or a teaching in this part of the tale that we should know about? Reply

Gavriel Canada October 19, 2013

ABRAHAM--FIRST JEW? How can you believe that Abraham was the first Jew--he was not even from the tribe of Judah--they weren't even formed yet. He is also the father of many nations. Reply

Judit Thornhill, ON October 18, 2013

Sarah and Hagar It is very simple, Sarah was Avraham's First Lady. I am sure she did not take it easy when Avraham fathered Ishamel. It is about control and political clout in a group. Sara, did what many others have done after her. She removed one sphere of influence over Avraham. Don't forget, living in the desert was harsh, resources were scarce. Also, we do not know what kind of dynamic was present in the family group. Some may view Sara's act as pragmatic, some would say it was cruel. Reply

Edgar Adona Philippines October 18, 2013

Sacrifice of Isaac Shalom! I have been wondering if during Abraham's time, human sacrifice is a common practice because if it was not and moreover, if it is a violation to God's Law then I do not see right for God to ask Abraham to offer Isaac. Or maybe I just don't understand or comprehend God's plan. Any comment please? Reply

Rasha Ayad Usa October 15, 2013

After the fact I enjoyed reading your insight. We can try to do our best, honoring GOD by loving one another. There is nothing impossible for GOD to do or to correct from human error or poor decision making. This is comforting to know if you in good faith and Truth do your best to love God and your fellow man. It is this submission that we all need to work on. GOD is in control, always has....everything goes by Him before taking place. Our sight and understanding is limited to the infinite scope and wisdom of GOD . Reply

jan Ireland November 4, 2012

Sarah had permission from Abraham for this act: she didn't usurp her authority.
God promised Abraham to be a father of nations through his offspring: Ishmael was a son of Abraham and therefore was part of God's promise to Abraham.He honoured His promise: He is a just and righteous God.
Pharoah was a worshipper of foreign gods. The Hebrew people worshipped God in Egypt. God honoured His promise to them and they propspered in Egypt.They were faithful to God in Egypt but lived under the rule of Pharoah.Their increasing numbers meant they becaame a threat to Egypt. When they left Egypt, they lift rich in wealth and rich in freedom from slavery. They were blessed twofold.The Hebrews weren't punished in Egypt: they were rescued from Egypt.
God appoints people in authority: it's up to them how they respond.
What do you think? Reply

Yojanan Lobo-y-HenriquesJC November 3, 2012

Avram ha Ivri In several articles I have found the suggestion that Abraham Avinu was a Jew and that is definitely not correct historically, as well as to say he was a Muslim or a Christian.
(14: 13 אברם העברי... (בראשית... Reply

Anonymous NY, NY November 11, 2011

Hashem aproved of Sarah Hashem approved of Sarah's act, as Avraham argued yet Hashem said listen to your wife.
11. But the matter greatly displeased Abraham, concerning his son.
12. And God said to Abraham, "Be not displeased concerning the lad and concerning your handmaid; whatever Sarah tells you, hearken to her voice, for in Isaac will be called your seed.

from here we learned that one must listen to his wife

later Ishmael did tshuva as we learned when Avraham passed away,
And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the Cave of Machpelah
(see Rashi there)

so it is thanks to Sarah saying the truth even when it is not popular that helped Ishmael to realize his true potential of becoming a Noahide. that's Sarah's powerful massage to us: "speak like a Jew, tell the truth even and especially when it's not popular! this ultimately refines us and everyone around us. We don't do anyone a fever by being politically correct Reply

Akiva Brooklyn, NY November 6, 2011

Re: Sarah In what light should we interpret Sarah"s act of banishing Hagar/Ismael from Sarah's household? Specifically, did Sarah sin or did she do the right thing? Some sources say that Sarah knew that Ismael was a bad influence on Issac and thus banished Hagar/Ismael from her house rightfully. Conversely, some say that G-d punished/punishes Jews through having Arabs as an enemy because Sarah sinned by banishing Hagar/Ismael. The two answers are mutually exclusive notwithstanding Chazal's affinity to cite the 70 faces of Torah rather than attempt to reconcile a patent contradiction. I believe that Sarah sinned for similar reasons that Pharoah sinned. Notably, though G-d intended to punish the Jews through their stay in Egypt, G-d did not authorize Pharoah to be the vehicle for that punishment. Your thoughts? Reply

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