This week’s parasha continues the story of Avraham and Sarah. We see the extent of Avraham’s desire to reach others and bestow kindness upon them. He is visited by Hashem three days after his circumcision. This is the most painful time after circumcision, and Hashem wanted to bring healing to Avraham. Yet, when Avraham sees guests (who were really angels), he asks Hashem to wait so he can invite them in. His desire to teach and bring light to the world superseded his pain.
Avraham used his skills as a host to teach the masses about Hashem and spirituality. This story teaches us that hosting guests is as great as receiving the divine presence of Hashem. The Zohar explains that Avraham was helping people become purified physically and spiritually. Avraham is connected to the spiritual aspect of water, which is a fundamental part of purification.
As we see in this story, the first thing Avraham wants to bring the angels is water to wash their feet. At the time, the world was steeped in idol worship. This brought a great spiritual impurity upon those who were involved in this type of worship.
For this reason, the first thing Avraham would do with those he brought closer to Hashem was purify them with water. He would purify the men, while Sarah would purify the women. The Zohar explains that Avraham had a tree he planted wherever his residence was. This tree was able to test people’s spiritual situation. If someone was connected to Hashem, the tree would place its shade on that person. If they were impure, the tree would pull its leaves away from that person.
The angels were on a mission to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Hashem felt he couldn’t withhold this from Avraham. Avraham began to entreat Hashem to save the city: there might be 50 righteous people there. When Hashem couldn’t even find 10 righteous people there, Avraham ceased requesting the cities’ rescue. This story illustrates the great power of having people behave righteously in a place. The actions of a group matter so much. Even if the majority of a city behaves in a depraved manner, the goodness of a few collected people who act rightly brings blessing and protection upon the city.
After the birth of Isaac, Sarah notices that Ishmael is behaving badly. He is involved in idol worship, licentious sexual behavior, and murder. Sarah doesn’t want Yitzchak to be influenced by this behavior. She tells Avraham he must kick Hagar and her son out of their home, for he is not fit for the spiritual inheritance with Isaac. Avraham is deeply pained over the news of his son’s bad behavior. Hashem tells Avraham he must listen to Sarah’s voice of prophecy in this case. Hashem tells Avraham not to feel bad about this. Ishmael will still be a great nation. This story teaches us that Sarah was a greater prophet than Avraham. As far back as the Bible’s time, our nation knew women’s greatness and privileged their judgment.
At the end of the parasha, Avraham is tried with his tenth test by Hashem. After a lifetime of preaching against the idolatrous behavior of sacrificing children on the altar, Hashem tells him to bring up his son Isaac as an offering to Hashem. Note the Torah uses the word as an elevated offering and doesn’t say for him to slaughter Isaac. Avraham just assumed this was what Hashem meant. Avraham didn’t hesitate to listen to Hashem, even though this apparently contradicted all his beliefs. In the end, Isaac is spared. As a result, Hashem tells Avraham,
‘All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your offspring’. It is quite obvious to see that wherever our nation goes, we bless the lands we are living in. The opposite is also true. Wherever we have been driven out, places usually suffer. Just take a look at Iraq today, merely 73 years after the Jewish community was targeted and began leaving.
Our nation has inherited loving-kindness and a love of Hashem from our tremendous patriarchs and matriarchs. The discipline, morality, and justice we learn from Hashem and from them have upheld us until now. May we be blessed to stay on this path and impart these values to our children, grandchildren, and the world,
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach