VaYera (The Lord Appeared) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion
TORAH : GENESIS 18:1-22:24
PROPHETS : 2 KINGS 4:1-37
GOSPEL : LUKE 2:1-38
From ancient times there has been a weekly portion (Parashah) from the first five books of Moses (The Torah) and an ending (Haftarah) from the Prophets read on the Sabbath in synagogues around the world. This portion is given a Hebrew name drawn from the opening words of the Torah passage.
We have found that in perusing these weekly readings, not only are we provided opportunity to identify in the context of God’s Word with millions of Jewish people around the world, but very often the Holy Spirit will highlight specific passages pertinent that week in our intercession for the Land and people of Israel.
The Haftarah, unless otherwise noted, will be that read in Ashkenazy synagogues around the world.
The readings for this week, October 29 — November 4 2017 are called VaYera — “And [The LORD] Appeared”:
*Genesis 18:1, 3. “Then the LORD appeared to him [Abraham] by the terebinth trees of Mamre [Hebron], as he was sitting in the tent door…Three men were standing by him…he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, ‘My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.”
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad…Before Abraham was, I AM.” Yeshua speaking: John 8:56, 58.
There is no clearer example in the Hebrew Scriptures of God taking on human form to meet with His children—He “appeared” to Abraham. When Abraham sees Him and runs to greet Him, it is to Someone he recognizes (Remember, God had already “appeared” to Him at least three times before—Acts 7:2; Gen. 12:7; 17:1). By this time he had also certainly come to recognize the sound of the “Word of the LORD” coming to him (Gen. 13:14; 15:1). Abraham approaches the three men, but to One he says, “My Lord…” Now, instead of using the normal Hebrew word Adoni (Lord/Master/Sir), the vowel points of the text show that he addressed him in the plural Adonai—a usage reserved for Deity! And in the ensuing conversation, both with Abraham and with Sarah (verse 1, 17, 22, 33), it is made abundantly clear that it is Yehovah—the LORD with whom he speaking. The other two ‘men’ are obviously angels (Genesis 19:1), who will soon release destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah.
PLEASE PRAY for believers in Israel that, from “inclining our ears to His voice” and “seeking His face”, we become so familiar with our Lord and His messengers that we recognize their presence when they move among us. Pray for us that in our busy-ness we “not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2).
*The LORD appears to him by the terebinth trees at Mamre—which is Hebron. Hebron is related to the word for “friendship” or “companionship”—implying a close association. Some see Hebron, not Jerusalem, as being the true place of Hebrew “identity.” It was here that the LORD in human appearance and Abraham ate and talked together as friends. The city would have holy significance for the Hebrews from this time on. All of the Patriarchs would be buried there. During the 400 years that Israel was in Egypt, the evil one would try and take it over; but Caleb would rip it away from those giants when he and Joshua finally brought their people into the land. It would be here that David, at the instruction of the Lord, set up his kingdom for the first seven years of his reign. Jews continued to dwell in Hebron until modern times, when an uprising and massacre took place there in 1929. In 1967 (exactly 50 years ago this past May 25th ), Hebron was taken by Israeli troops without firing a shot. Sometime later, a contingent of brave Jewish women marched in and occupied a place inside of the city; another Jewish settlement was built outside. In 1997, in obeisance to the Oslo “accord,” occupying Israeli troops finally pulled out of the city (some continue to be stationed there to guard the tiny enclave of Jews and to insure access to the Tomb of the Patriarchs). Liberal Israeli governments have pushed for Israel to simply yield up the city and pull out of it altogether; until now, that has not happened.
The Muslim religion looks at Hebron as the burial place of one of its leaders. It has sought to resolve discrepancies between its teachings and those of the Bible by holding that the Hebrew Scriptures alter the ancient accounts, that in fact Ibrahim [Abraham] was the first Muslim, and Allah’s covenant came through Isma’il [Ishmael], not Isaac. Presently, like the giants of Arbah in ancient times, the spirit behind this religion holds Hebron in its grip. And the Jews living in and around Hebron, although showing great courage and devotion, at times manifest their zeal in a violence not far-removed from that of those they perceive as their enemies surrounding them.
PLEASE PRAY: that the timings and purposes of the LORD will be released in Hebron “on earth as they are in Heaven”. Pray for a Great Light to illumine both Arab and Jew in their communities in Hebron, the light of the Most High God who desires to have a friendship with all the sons of Adam. Pray against the spiritual strongholds of cruel violence (Hebrew: hamas) which seek to hold both Jew and Arab captive in this city. Pray that national Israel will not come to despise her birthright, which includes this city of the burial place of her Fathers.
*Genesis 18:14. “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
[cf: Jeremiah 32;17-18. “Ah, Lord YHVH! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great Power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too wonderful for you…the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is YHVH of Armies.”].
Many English translations read “too difficult” or “too hard” for “wonderful”. This is partly correct, but Hebrew peleh means “that which is so extraordinary or unusual as to awaken wonder”. This is the word used in Exodus 15:11—“You are awesome in praise, doing wonders O LORD.” Our God is a God of Wonders—executing extra-ordinary acts beyond our abilities to comprehend. Yet, nothing challenges His comprehension!
*Genesis 18:19. “For I [YHVH] have known him [Abraham], in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of YHVH, to do righteousness and justice, that YHVH may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.” Psalm 71:18 picks up on this crucial responsibility which accompanies the intimacy which God desires to have with us—that of passing it on to those who follow after us, “Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come.”
*Genesis 20:6-7. “And God said to him [Abimelech] in a dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live….”
PLEASE PRAY: that though surrounded by peoples who are often hostile to us, we would make allowance in our hearts for the grace and loving kindness which goes forth from our God on behalf of all men and women of every nation. He is not willing that any should perish. Pray that we will not stereotype and dismiss the peoples and nations around us, but be sensitive and ready to pray restoration and prosperity upon those whom God may choose through us to rest His grace and mercy.
*Genesis 20:7. “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live.”
This is the first mention of the word “prophet” (Hebrew: navi) in Scripture.
Nabi [or navi] literally means “to bubble up.” It describes one who is stirred up in spirit…When the sense of “bubbling up” is applied to speaking, it becomes “to declare.” Hence, a nabi, or a prophet, is an announcer—one who pours forth the declarations of God. (John W. Ritenbaugh, Forerunner Commentary)
*Genesis 21:9-12. “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my sons, with Isaac.” And the matter was very displeasing to Abraham’s sight because of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.”
We find teachings seeking to attribute the conflict in the Middle East to a “rejection spirit” occasioned by Abraham’s wrongfully sending Ishmael away, to be misguided, because 1) both this passage and Galatians 4:28-31 make clear that Abraham was obeying God in honouring Sarah’s demand to send Ishmael away, and 2) those who teach this usually do so from a viewpoint that all Arab peoples are descended from Ishmael, a stance for which there is no Biblical or historically verifiable support (such a view disregards the presence and descendants of the millions who lived in what are today considered “Arab” countries long before Ishmael or Isaac were even born). The ridiculing of Isaac by Ishmael may imply that Hagar had not fully obeyed the Angel of the LORD in “submitting herself to Sarah and her hand” after she returned the first time from the desert (16:9). In all events, God loved Hagar and Ishmael and watched over them—eventually Ishmael became the “father” of twelve princes (Gen. 12:20; 25:16).
*Genesis 21:33. “Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there called on the name of YHVH, the Everlasting God.” As we have mentioned, as we progress with the Patriarchs through Genesis, we see YHVH who appeared to Abram in Ur, continually revealing new attributes of His nature and character—showing how this “El” (God) differs from all the other “el’s” worshiped by the Canaanites in the land. There attributes are reflected in the new names by which He is called. Here Abraham coins just such a new name, YHVH El Olam—“Yehovah, the God who is Eternal.”
*Genesis 22:2. “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go forth, yourself (Hebrew: Lekh-lekha!) to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” The last time God used the words Lekh-lekha! (literally “Begin walking, yourself”!), was in Ur (Gen. 12:1). It was up to Abraham himself to begin moving—and then God guided him ‘in his going’, bringing him against all hope eventually into the far-away land of Canaan. Now Abraham is much older, and has walked with this God for many years and communed with him as a Friend. This is even more an obedience against hope—but by now this Man of Faith (who rejoiced to see Yeshua’s day! John 8:56) had come to believe in this God as the very “Resurrection and the Life.” In 22:5, he doggedly assures the young men with him that “the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and WE will come back to you.”
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
*Genesis 22:7-8, 14. “Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ And he said, ‘Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together…And Abraham called the name of the place “YHVH will Provide…In the Mount of YHVH it will be Provided.”
In ancient Hebrew the word yireh could idiomatically carry with it an idea of “provision”. Yet literally it was then, as today, a form of the verb “To See”. “God will see for Himself the Lamb” (22:8); “YHVH will see; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of YHVH it will be seen” (22:14). God’s “seeing”, and our being “in His sight” is so important! We believe this to be a reason so much emphasis is placed throughout Scripture on the importance of dwelling “in the light of His face” (Psalm 44:3; 80:19)—“seeking His face” (Psalm 27:8-9)—“finding grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). If there is nothing coming between us and His face (the place of His “seeing”), all the provision for our journey will be there. Lastly, God had indeed “seen/provided the Lamb”. Isaiah 53:11 uses the same word— “He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”
*Genesis 22:13. “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horn.” We believe that here lies an important part of the significance of the shofar or rams’ horn. Here, caught by its horn, was the symbol of God’s Provision for all humankind–the ‘Lamb of God which carries away the sin of the world’. The sound of the shofar is a sound of the redemptive work and victory of the Lamb. When it is blown in the timing and authority of the Ruah haKodesh (Holy Spirit/Wind)…demons tremble, and the hearts of God’s army are strengthened and renewed with courage and joy!
[The readings for next week (5-11 November 2017) are called Chayeh Sarah—“Sarah’s Life”. TORAH: Genesis 23:1—25:18; HAFTARAH: I Kings 1:1-31.]
In A Nutshell
The portion, VaYera (The Lord Appeared), begins with the story of the three angels that came to Abraham and told Sarah she would have a son. Sarah laughed because she could not believe that she would have a son at her age. Yet, she did have a son, whose name was Ytzhak (Isaac) named after her Tzhok (laughter).
The angels continued on their way to destroy the cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, due to the many sins being committed there. Lot and his family were allowed to escape, but Lot’s wife did not obey the angels’ orders, turned around to look, and became a pillar of salt. Lot and his two daughters made it to a cave. Lot’s daughters were certain that they were the only survivors in the world, so they tricked their father into having children with them.
Later in the portion, following Sarah’s request, Abraham expels Hagar and Ishmael to the desert; the Creator commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and in the last moment, an angel stops the execution. Abraham takes a ram that he found caught in the thicket and offers it instead of his son.
In “A Preface to the Book of Zohar,” one of Baal HaSulam’s introductions to The Book of Zohar, he offers a special explanation of our perception of reality. The explanation details how we perceive the reality we live in, and how the place where we are is depicted in us as an image of emotions, which are portrayed as solid, as gas, as liquid, etc.
The Zohar and the wisdom of Kabbalah explain that due to the way in which we perceive reality—with our qualities and senses—we react to something outside of us, which we do not know, and which we turn into various colors and materials. However, we need to acquire additional senses and rise to a higher perception of reality, above our senses. This is how we will discover the upper world.
The Book of Zohar speaks to us in the “language of the branches,” using the terms of our world. It tells us how we can obtain and be impressed with the new form, which is higher than our world. Sometimes our concepts seem real to us, such as a pillar of salt, the upheaval of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the story of the three angels, etc., since “a verse does not extend the literal” (Masechet Yevamot, 24a). Yet, we should strive to see these concepts as relationships between us in the common soul.
The events of the portion are not merely historic tales; they are sources that deal with the connections between us. The role of these sources is to teach one who wishes to advance and rise to the new perception of reality how to scrutinize one’s desires, qualities, forces, and the connections between them, in order to design from them the perception of reality that is called, for instance, “the portion, VaYera.”
With each portion, we must rise higher until we arrive at the entrance to the land of Israel, where all our desires aim to bestow, in Dvekut (adhesion), so we may begin the actual work. The Torah reveals to us the light that reforms so we may advance from the reception of the Torah to the entrance to the land of Israel—a state where we can work with the entire substance of creation—with all of our desires—in the proper way. The word Eretz (land) comes from the word Ratzon (desire), and the word Ysrael (Israel) comes from the words Yashar El (straight to God).
The three angels are three forces that exist within us: right, left, and middle, through which we advance. There is the Abraham within us; this is the right line. On the one hand, he has the Klipa (shell/peel) of the right, who are Hagar and Ishmael, and on the other hand, he has the Klipa of the left, who are Isaac and Esau, with whom we attain the middle line, who is Jacob, at the conclusion of the process of correction.
A person sorts all of one’s mental forces out of the qualities that aim toward giving, and out of the qualities that aim toward receiving. In the middle, between them, is the balanced combination of the forces: the force of Hesed (mercy)—right—is Abraham, and the force of Gevura—left—is Isaac, while the forces of the angels are Michael on the right, and Gabriel on the left.
We need to sort the depth of the desires with which we can work because we cannot work with all our desires in order to bestow. Although each Mitzva (commandment) along the way aims toward “love your neighbor as yourself,” I still need to sort out all my desires and see whether I can achieve love of others with them. If I cannot, I avoid using them until the next, better state.
This is why Abraham had to cut—some to the right and some to the left—as in the case of the strife between the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle and the herdsmen of his cattle, where it was quite clear who was to the right and who was to the left. In a state of Sodom, there is a mixture once again, which behooves a similar scrutiny.
On the one hand, Lot must be taken out of there. On the other hand, Lot’s “female” desire must be removed. A male is the force of bestowal, while a female is the force of reception. Therefore, following the scrutiny, since it was not possible to work with Lot’s desire, his wife became a pillar of salt. We use salt to add flavor to our feed. Without it, our food would be tasteless; but we use it only on condition that it’s lifeless. Water is a state of semi-dead, semi-living. Salt, which is essentially one mineral, is extracted from the ground when it is completely lifeless; it is neither a vegetable nor an animal.
This is the way one scrutinizes more and more degrees. In the tying of Isaac we scrutinize how to tie up the left line, how to prevent it from using its powers to the fullest. Abraham, the force of the right, holds the left line and binds it, preventing it from being used. He does it by cutting out his own animal part, but leaving his speaking part. The rest can be sacrificed as an offering.
Another form of scrutiny is through deportation of the part of the right that cannot join the left. This manifests in the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael. Through serious inner work, a person scrutinizes with which forces of the soul it is possible to work and to advance from portion to portion, from degree to degree.
Concerning our time, the Sodom and Gomorrah issue resembles the American approach, which says, “let mine be mine; let yours be yours.” In other words, there is democracy, and there is freedom of the individual, and each one is to oneself. Clearly and unequivocally, we do not come into a connection where I am for you and you are for me. There is no emotional commitment, help, or bonding. It is just as it was in Sodom and Gomorrah.
Right from the start we are told that if we want to advance on the path of correction of the soul, we need to change how we relate to one another. The relationship must be oriented toward connection. “Let mine be mine; let yours be yours” is Sodomite rule. Even if it seems to us that it is a respectable attitude when no one messes with one’s neighbors business, that attitude contradicts the purpose of creation, which is to be “as one man with one heart” (RASHI, Exodus, 19b), to unite into a single system. This is why today Nature is presenting us with an integral, circular system where we are all inevitably connected, the complete opposite of Sodomite rule.
The portion, VaYera, teaches us what we can elicit from the quality of Sodom, even if Lot’s wife, her two daughters, and Lot himself stand in our way. It does not matter that we will have to continue to correct them in relation to their sins in the cave. What matters is that right at the start of our correction we must abandon the rule, “let mine be mine; let yours be yours.”
Today the world is in precisely the same situation. This is why we must determine to destroy the previous relations between us, which were based on money, on the egotistical connection of give and take. Instead, we must fashion a system that is similar to the integral system that is currently appearing worldwide, a system where we are interdependent. Our dependence is similar to that of a family, where there are no monetary calculations, but rather emotional ones, where we draw closer to each other and become “as one man with one heart.”
Today, Sodomite rule, “let mine be mine; let yours be yours,” characterizes the fall of both communism and capitalism. We are not in a state of “Give what you can and take what you need,” as the communist proclaimed.
We are in a process where we must exit Sodom without destroying it altogether. Rather, we must overturn and rebuild it from the previous discernments, since no redundancy was created in the world. Even what seems to us as the worst possible thing can turn to good, depending on how we use it. For example, a poisonous snake is the symbol of medicine. We use the venom to produce many medicines. It is written in The Book of Zohar that when the dear wants to give birth to the soul, the serpent comes and bites her, and only then does she deliver. It is impossible to give birth to anything—neither to a new degree nor to a new soul—without the serpent’s bite.
Today we are in a very special situation, a tipping point, an inversion we must go through. It is just as there is an inversion in childbirth from a position where the head of the fetus turns upward to a position where its head turns downward. This is how we emerge from world to world. That inversion symbolizes our attitude toward the world, to people; everything becomes inverted.
This is also the inversion of Sodom and Gomorrah, which we must go through, in our relationships—from “let mine be mine; let yours be yours.” If we recognize it and willingly understand it, we will go through it easily. Otherwise, we will experience it as affliction by Nature’s forces.
Currently, the Torah is compelling us to relate to others by the rule, “that which you hate, do not do to your neighbor” (Masechet Shabbat, 31a). We must be very clear about this attitude, and not mistakenly compare it to Sodomite rule, “let mine be mine; let yours be yours.”
“That which you hate, do not do to your neighbor” does not mean that you only avoid harming others. Rather, it means you must relate to the other, so that you cannot harm another despite your ego and your will to receive. This attitude is called “desiring mercy.” Yet, this is still not an attitude of love. Rather, it is as old Hillel said to the gentile—one who wishes to draw nearer to the truth—this is only the first part, said on one leg. In the next stage, as Rabbi Akiva says, we treat others in a manner of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, Chapter 9, 30b). These are the two stages, out of which we must now execute at least the first.
It is therefore clear that the world is beginning the path of correction coercively, feeling the shattering, the crisis, and the problems. These are the days of the Messiah, in which a new world is being born before us.
The state of Sodom and Gomorrah, of “let mine be mine; let yours be yours,” seems better than our current situation. At least in Sodom people did not steal from one another. Are we really in a worse situation than in Sodom?
Our situation is far worse than in Sodom and Gomorrah. The western ideology of “let mine be mine; let yours be yours,” which says, “Do not interfere with others’ businesses—stressing the privacy and freedom of the individual—is what created this truly adverse situation. We need to get passed it and move on. Our progress toward the new world is mandatory, behooved by Nature.
Do we need to feel others in order to advance to the new world?
It is the very reason why we passed through the stage of the desert. The entire forty years in the desert were stages where we ascended above our egos, trying not to be bad to one another. This manifested in all the sins that the children of Israel committed in the desert. Each sin had its own correction, repeatedly and ceaselessly.
In this process, the disclosure of the big and corrupt desires—above which the children of Israel ascend, “that which you hate, do not do to your neighbor”—is the beginning of everything. This is how we must deal with the rest of the world. It is a very difficult task because we must rise above our desires, above our nature.
Why did the Creator command Abraham to slaughter his son?
Slaughtering refers to slaughtering one’s approach to life, which is to enjoy the world. To enjoy it means to enjoy exploiting the world.
Do you mean enjoyment at the expense of others?
I always compare myself to others, everything that I will have to ruin inside of me, and what I will build as a completely new attitude toward others.
And God Tested Abraham
“It certainly should have said Abraham, for he needed to be included in the Din because previously, there was no Din in Abraham and he was all Hesed. But now water became mingled with fire, Hesed with Din. Thus far, Abraham was incomplete, and he was crowned to pass judgment and correct the Din in its place, since there is illumination of Hochma only in the left line. Hence, before Abraham was included in Isaac, left line, he was incomplete, meaning he lacked illumination of Hochma. And through the tying, Isaac was mingled and was thus crowned with illumination of Hochma and was completed. This is why it writes that in the tying, he was crowned to pass judgment, and thus the Din was corrected, meaning the illumination of the left in its place, when he was included in Abraham’s place, in Hesed.”
Zohar for All, VaYera (The Lord Appeared), item 490
It seems that there is a problem here from the perspective of creation in relation the Creator. On the one hand, the Creator needs to create something outside of Him, a Nivra (creature), from the word Bar (outside) of the degree. On the other hand, to do good to the creature, the Creator must elevate it to a degree where the creature is exactly like the Creator, in every way. How then can these opposites merge into one in a person who is similar to the Creator, though not identical?
To do that, there is a need to create in man all the desires whose nature is opposite from that of the Creator. The 613 desires in man are then built through the 613 lights of the Torah, which are called “613 ways of the Torah.” When one begins to work with those desires, to receive in them in order to bestow upon the Creator, this is when one corrects oneself and receives in order to bestow, which is actual bestowal.
It follows that we must undergo extensive corrections once we rise above those desires we refrain from using. This is the beginning of Abraham’s correction in relation to Isaac. The scrutiny is done by the middle line—how much it is possible to receive from it, and how much it is not possible. In other words, as we ascend on the ladder of degrees we constantly scrutinize our use of the will to receive, as much as possible, in order to bestow.
Yet, it is clear to us that we have desires called “Lot’s wife,” which we must “put on hold.” Salt does not become spoiled; it can be used after a long time. This is also how we use all the discernments in us, all of our desires.
Along the way, we perform a kind of covenant—circumcision, exposing, and the drop of blood.” We do not use the biggest desires in the soul, the foreskin, but leave them for the end of correction, when we will have the strength to use them correctly—so as to do good to others. If we use them now we will only harm others. Therefore, we make all the corrections in between, called “Lot’s wife.”
A woman is the will to receive, the ego in a person. It is poised toward the desire to bestow, which can be connected to the will to receive, called “Lot and his wife.” Lot is the desire to bestow. However, the will to receive cannot work with it, which is why a person must temporarily “freeze” it, and the desire to bestow seemingly “rides over it” until the next degrees when it wakes up.