Parshah Columnists for Vayeira

Guest Columnists
Climb Down From Your Pedestal
How G-d shows us that the notion of determining whether or not someone or something is guilty or innocent is almost never as absolute as it may seem.
When You Are In a Slump
Why does the Prophet Elisha tell the distraught woman to collect empty pitchers and fill them with oil?
What Doomed the Ancient City of Sodom?
No sinning is good, but sins against our own neighbors are the worst.
Why Were Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed Right After Abraham Was Circumcised?
The residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked sinners both before Abraham was circumcised and after the event. Was it a mere coincidence that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed right after Abraham was circumcised? I don’t think so.
A Pillar of Salt
I read how Lot is saved and his wife turns into a pillar of salt. And I search to see my life in these words. I'd rather not see it, of course, as the connection is too intense, too real, too true
Believing Again
Walking the paths of Auschwitz, I began to doubt humanity and its Creator. I felt suspended in a world I could not comprehend...
Mr. Self-Sacrifice
Sometimes self-sacrifice is not as selfless as it's cracked up to be. Whether the perceived gain is eternal bliss or political propaganda, a famous death can look better than an obscure life...
A Tree, an Orchard, and a 5-Star Hotel
Abraham planted something in the desert. What he planted is subject to debate, but the lesson we learn is not...
A Kind Man Speaks Harshly
G-d unleashes his wrath on the city of Sodom, but before G-d carries out his plan, Abraham does a most remarkable thing. He attempts to nullify G-d’s decree: “Abraham came forward and said, ‘Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?’”
A Very Strange Commandment
"Taking a human life is an absolute no-no. How could Abraham have been willing to kill his own son in cold blood? So what if G-d commanded him--that's no excuse!"
Wedding Speeches for Vayeira
How to Let Go of a Dream
What Abraham Taught Us About Commitment
Have you ever made great plans that went down the drain?
Who Was Lot in the Bible?
The Torah and Midrash Tell Us He's a Complicated Person…
As we go through his somewhat contradictory life story, I’ll leave it to you to decide . . .
An Impromptu Intervention
A Lesson From Abraham on How to Stand up for Others
When the car flips, or flames leap from a crumbling home, there are those ordinary people who do extraordinary things. What is the process?
Bringing the Blessing Into Our Tent
Great blessings such as these do not come as the result of any particular ability we may have or lack.
When You Are About to Give Up
Sometimes, doing our bit means going out of our tent, our comfort zone, and demonstrating our determination to do all we can to turn that hope into our reality.
A Rose By Any Other Name
Parshat Vayeira
Does your name define you? Do you know what your name means? Would you consider it a goal to live up to the meaning of your name? My English name is Stacey, the meaning of which is not fit to print in a Jewish magazine...
Sacrificing Morality
An Essay on Vayeira
Before facing the trial of love for his own child, Abraham was forced to ask, “Where is my whole world? Where is my whole concept of justice? Where is my morality?” At the Akeidah, Abraham sacrifices not only his son’s body but his own soul.
Torah Insights
How to Be a Luminary
No longer will it suffice for Abraham to be a spiritual person. From now on, Abraham's task will be to connect the spiritual with the physical.
Too Much Testing?
Why was Abraham continuously tested?
Why Ishmael Was Rejected
Underlying the tension was the question of succession: which of Abraham’s two children would be the one chosen to carry on his legacy.
Why Angels Won't Multitask
When I was in the first grade, just beginning to study the book of Genesis, I was fascinated by the stories, the personalities and the drama. But nothing captured my imagination more than the angels.
Weekly Sermonette
Jealous of Your Brother?
We learn from Abraham that even if it is difficult, and other people have it far easier, we still do what must be done. Because that’s what we’re here for.
A Jew's Gotta Do
Having failed in his valiant attempt, Abraham acknowledges defeat. But then, where does he go?
The Boy or the Bottle?
Just because the bottle may be empty don’t throw away the child
The Acid Test
Years ago I came across a one-liner that had a profound impact on me personally: “Every rabbi has only one sermon—the way he lives his life.” It’s all too true . . .
Covenant & Conversation
G-d and Strangers
Abraham, father of monotheism, knew the paradoxical truth that to live the life of faith is to see the trace of G‑d in the face of the stranger. It is easy to receive the Divine Presence when G‑d appears as G‑d. What is difficult is to sense the Divine Presence when it comes disguised as three anonymous passers-by.
The Space Between Us
Abraham was chosen to be a parental role model. But how can a man who banished his son Ishmael, sending him off with his mother Hagar into the desert, where they nearly died, be thought of as an exemplary father? And how could a man who was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac be a model for future generations?
The Miracle of a Child
Throughout history, Jews were called on to value children. Our entire value system is built on it.
Even Higher Than Angels
Faced with a choice between listening to G‑d, and offering hospitality to human beings, Abraham chose the latter.
Answering the Call
The early history of humanity as told in the Torah is a series of disappointments. G‑d gives human beings freedom, which they then misuse.
Does Judaism Believe in Human Sacrifice?
Why did God need to “test” Abraham, given that He knows the human heart better than we know it ourselves?
Parshah Moment
Hebrews Not Welcome
Abraham did it before there was a name for it: the pioneer of pioneering
For Friday Night
Modesty, Beauty and Holiness
Something which is holy is also protected and, to a certain extent, hidden...
The Step Beyond Self
There are many examples of people giving up their lives in order to achieve a certain goal for themselves. The case of Abraham is different: it was a step of surrender of self.
Parshah Messages
Sometimes the Greatest Gift is One You Don't Give
Receiving often has strings attached. Often, recompense in terms of gratitude and a feeling of indebtedness are expected. So is it wise to be on the receiving end?
Coercing Religious Observance
Abraham's unique style of hospitality teaches us a lesson how to influence others in the right direction.
What the Rebbe Taught Me
What Abraham Saw While Talking To G-d
Somehow, Abraham managed to notice these three strangers in middle of communing with the Almighty!
A Dialogue Between G-d and Abraham
Ishmael and Isaac were having it out. The topic: circumcision. “See here,” says Ishmael, “I am more precious in G-d’s eyes, since I was thirteen when I had mine done.” “I beg to differ,” answered Isaac. “I was eight days old. Now that’s gotta be way cooler.” But let’s face it. Ishmael has a point...
Living through the Parshah
When You Can’t Wrap Your Mind Around G-d’s Plan
Why would G‑d finally give Abraham a son and then take him away? Why snuff out Isaac’s life before he’s had any children of his own? Abraham and Sarah would have no children or grandchildren to continue their legacy of monotheism.
When Abraham Proved His Mettle
Speaking of sacrifice, I had a frightening epiphany one day last month. I used to think of myself as an altruistic person, but a little objective reflection forced me to conclude that that wasn't the case at all...
Why Women Don't Need Circumcision
Why couldn’t G‑d have chosen an organ common to both women and men to brand our Jewish identity?
Faith Under Fire
Is G-d looking to trip me up? Is He punishing me? Ignoring me? Am I just plain old unlucky?
What Do You Think?
Why Is Inviting Guests Such a Mitzvah?
Bringing people into our space can be quite exposing and maybe even embarrassing, but it is one of the greatest forms of kindness and the epitome of sharing our bounty.
Is Anybody Home?!
That education hit home! Although he discarded most of what he was taught, a habit of hospitality remained. He cannot leave the homeless homeless . . .
Parshah Musings
Make Yourself at Home
The Believer's Complaint
You Call Yourself A Man?
Sometimes I wonder at the puny specimens passing themselves off as Bar Mitzvah boys. How, by any stretch of the imagination, can they be described as having reached adulthood?
Euthanasia, Medical Morass, and the Wickedness of Sodom
In Memory of Alta Fixler
How long before we decline further into society enforcing the abortion and so-called mercy killing of individuals with disabilities?
Inner Stream
Your Daily Sacrifice
Isaac’s willingness to die was not an ending by any means. It was a beginning, and continues to have an impact, even today.
The Righteous Minority
Can You Feel My Pain?
Before Abimelech’s household was cured, G-d remembered Sarah and she conceived with Isaac. From this our sages deduced that those who pray on behalf of others, and are themselves of similar need, are answered first...
Marrying Task to Purpose
The purpose of work is to provide for one’s family. The purpose of eating is to gain nourishment and live. The purpose of living is to serve G‑d. The purpose of courting is to marry, and the purpose of marriage is to build a home.
Abraham on the Final Journey
When we embark on our final journey, the items for which we toiled so mightily don’t come with us.
The Freeman Files
How to Be a Father
It’s the first dialogue there is between a father and his son in the Torah. It starts like this:
Isaac to Abraham: “My father?”
Abraham to Isaac: “Here I am, my son.”
The Ultimate Test of Abraham
What was so great about the binding of Isaac?
Why does an all-knowing G-d need to test anybody? Shouldn't He know what is in our hearts? And why is Abraham's test of faith "the entire glory of Israel and their merit before their Father in Heaven"?
A Needy World
Challenge Up
Food Beyond the Angels
Eating is a spiritual activity.
In His Presence
To pray is to speak from a place where there is no room for you to exist.
The Heresy of Kindness
They asked the Baal Shem Tov: "The Talmud tells us that for every thing G-d forbade, He provided us something permissible. What did He permit that corresponds to the sin of heresy?" Replied the Besht : "Acts of kindness"
Without End
Needing One Another
A healthy world is one in which we realize how much each we need each other.
Do not silence those who are angry with G-d, nor argue with them. They have a right. Perhaps G-d will hear.
Want It All
I think I know why the Rebbe liked this story so much. The child's question and the grandfather's explanation express two extremes, whose contrast and synthesis are a hallmark of the Rebbe's approach to life
If G-d Revealed Himself to You, How'd You Know It's Him?
You're sitting in your room and meditating when you hear a voice. Is it the real thing? Is it another of your roommate's pranks? Or just your imagination running wild? How to know?
100% Natural
Often we look at our lives and are disappointed by how little of it is directed towards a higher purpose...
The Myth of Charity
Do not be misled by the legendary philanthropy of the Jews, by their saturation of social and humanitarian movements, by their invention of the pushka, the meshulach and the UJA. Jews do not practice charity, and the concept is virtually nonexistent in Jewish tradition.
Don't Be Fair
What were the sins of Sodom? In the English language, the name of the city is synonymous with sexual perversion. But the traditional Jewish sources -- the Talmud, Midrashim and the Commentaries -- have a different angle on the Sodom story
The Lost Cause Scenario
Much is made of Abraham’s valiant efforts to save the city of Sodom, how he went to battle with G‑d on behalf of these very sinful people. But something about the story just doesn’t add up . . .
Sacrifice Your Son?
a conversation
Skeptic: Now if that's not the epitome of everything wrong with religion... Believer: Aren't you leaving out a very important part of the story?
Life's Passages
Don’t Ignore the Call!
Just as every parent would forego personal honor and willingly wait while you tend to his or her child, this, too, is G‑d’s greatest pleasure.
Follow Your Convictions
At various junctures in our lives, we may face the difficult decision of doing what we know is best, or conforming to what others expect. How do you choose?
Is Our World Getting Better or Worse?
Rather than feeling as though we are progressing forward on our sojourn towards a better reality, our situation can sometimes feel pretty helpless.
Parshah Recovery
Humility is Teachability
Why did Abraham bother to coerce stubborn guests into reciting a prayer? What was the value of forcing his guests to pay lip service to a belief in G‑d; it was, after all, insincere?
Beyond Speech
The Power of Our Mitzvot
We have the power to tap into the concealed levels of G-dliness.
We Are a Miracle
On the Haftarah: Ode to Jewish Mothers
For the haftarah of Vayeira, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
The haftarah for Vayeira tells us of two stories of miracles from our prophet Elisha.
The People Who Saved My Family
To save a life, you go the extra mile. I saw this firsthand after learning that I had ALS.
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