02 Nov 2023 Vayeira: The Legacy of Avraham Avinu & The Destiny of Am Yisrael
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeira, we continue to learn of the life, journey, struggles, triumphs and faith of our father and founder, Avraham Avinu.
The parsha begins as Avraham is recovering from his bris milah at the age of ninety-nine years, and G-d comes to visit him, as he sits in the heat of the day. The narrative of the visiting guests (angels) is then outlined, and a model of hachnasas orchim (welcoming guests) is portrayed for us. In this week’s parsha, we learn of Avraham’s prayers for the cities of the plain – namely, Sodom and Amorah amongst them – and their inhabitants. We learn of the destruction of said cities and the salvation of Lot and his daughters. We read of Avimelech taking Sarah, the birth of Yitzchak, the sending away of Hagar and Yishmael, and the great drama and sacrifice of the Akeidas Yitzchak.
From the first journey from his homeland and family to the new land, to the day of his death at 175 years, Avraham blazed the trail of the life, struggles, triumphs and survival of his children, Am Yisrael (see Ramban to Bereishis 12:6). Avraham is Avinu – the father to us all. And as descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov – we all together form the great nation of Israel, about whom the pasuk says: וּמִי כְעַמְּךָ כְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, גּוֹי אֶחָד בָּאָרֶץ – Who is like Your people Israel, one nation in the land (Shmuel II 7:23).
It is the emunah of Avraham, the chessed of Avraham, the integrity, courage, bravery and ways of Avraham that must inspire us to carry on the legacy of this great nation which he founded.
In all honesty, I am not sure how to relate the following piece directly to the parsha, but I found it to be especially moving and powerful, and as our nation faces a common enemy who has risen to destroy us and our Land, it is a piece well worth reading. The battle today is not only “the battle for our home” of Medinat Yisrael, and it is not only “Our second War of Independence” (as PM Netanyahu called it in his remarks to the nation this past Motzei Shabbat), being fought seventy-five years after the State was established in 1948. It is the battle of Am Yisrael against the demonic forces of evil, anti-semitism, corruption of truth, perversion of justice and goodwill, and the Amalek of our time – as it has reared its ugly head once again, all over the world.
In the most recent edition of Commentary, John Podhoretz writes in his Editor’s column: “While I write, highly uncivilized human beings are flying over and climbing under and running on foot and paragliding into the country of my sister and her family and my people, trying to kill them all.
“When I call the Jews of Israel ‘my people,’ I am saying something very specific – something factual, not emotional. I am not a sentimentalist. I do not believe people are all brothers, and I do not believe all Jews are brothers. A Jew who ceases speaking the prayer for the State of Israel at his synagogue because he does not like the politics of the people in charge is not my brother. A Jew who mocks other Jews whose deeply held beliefs restrict their diet and their clothing and their cosmopolitan way of life is not my brother. A Jew who treats Judaism itself as though it is a piece of clothing to be donned and doffed at will is not my brother.
“All that said, had we lived eighty years ago under a different regime and in a different time, these people who are not my brothers would all have been on a cattle car with me on our way to the gas chambers and crematoria. Fifty years ago, had we but the athletic skill, we could have been taken hostage in Munich and there slaughtered. Today, as I write, brother or not, we could have all been slaughtered in our beds, or burned in our homes or cars, our babies brutally murdered and our family members horrifically kidnapped.
“And all for the same reason, every time throughout the history of our nation.
“These are my people because so many others, civilized and barbaric and every shade in between, see us as the same and want to see us and our families – grandparents, parents, children, siblings – dead.
“But that alone is not what defines ‘my people’ for me…. Israelis are coming together as never before and will be fighting this war with a clarifying determination because the Jews have ingathered again, and, as Golda Meir said, ‘we have nowhere else to go.’ Jews are here, Jews are still here, and Jews are still going to be here – because these people who do not want us to be here will go the way of all flesh while our ancient people remain and survive and thrive.
“On Passover we say: ‘In every generation they rise up to destroy us’. And while we continue with the words: ‘And the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hands’, we must always do our part, and help Him out.
“The first enemy of the newly constituted nation of Israel was Amalek. Exodus 17:8 provides the first account of the defeat of an enemy of the Jews. And it is the direct result of Moses’ discovery that if he held up his hand and kept it up, no matter what and no matter how long it might take, the tide of battle would turn towards the Israelites.
“As Moses’ hand was raised, the hand of Israel is now raised” (Commentary, November 2023, p.1).
The Mishnah tells us: עֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת נִתְנַסָּה אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם וְעָמַד בְּכֻלָּם, לְהוֹדִיעַ כַּמָּה חִבָּתוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם – with ten tests our forefather Avraham was tested, and he withstood them all, in order to make known how great was our father Abraham’s love [for G‑d] (Avos 5:3). When facing formidable challenges throughout his life, with his great emunah and ahavas Hashem, Avraham emerged victorious. Learning the lessons of his life, and walking in his ways, we – the nation he founded and fathered – will emerge victorious, joined together b’achdus, with ahavas Yisrael and unwavering emunah in the RS”O. “Because these people who do not want us to be here will go the way of all flesh while our ancient people remain and survive and thrive.”
בברכת בשורות טובות, ישועות, ושבת שלום,