11/18/2016 - VAYEIRA/GENESIS
D'var by Emma Kaplan, Innovation Specialist - Springboard Fellow
This week we read about many of the famous stories that together create the values we hold
closely in Judaism. Parsha Vayera takes us through the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the visit of three angels, the birth of Isaac, and the trials of Abraham. Many of these stories raise some troubling ideas that may leave us with feeling frustrated and with many questions.
Through the ups and downs of this Parsha, we eventually end up at a point where all things seem to be coming together. Abraham has been named the Father of the Great Nation, he would see over more than just one Nation, he would continue to be rich in livestock and crops, and finally after the disappointment of his first son, Ishmael, Abraham is given a Jewish son, Isaac. God could have ended the parsha right here and we all would have walked away feeling pretty good about the current situation of Abraham and Sarah.
But that wouldn’t be very exciting.
Instead of closing the chapter here, God decides that Abraham must go through a test to prove his loyalty. God says to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.” And Abraham listens. He takes his son to the mountains and ties him to the wood and raises the knife to sacrifice his greatest gift in order to follow God’s commands. But before Abraham can follow through with the task, God stops him and replaces Isaac for a ram to complete the sacrifice. Isaac survives and Abraham has passed the test.
This is the part of the Parsha where I am left feeling frustrated and confused. Why would God put Abraham through such pain just to prove his loyalty? In my endless search for answers through the modern textbook (google), I find varying responses from Rabbi to Rabbi. But one speaks loudly to me and to our generation. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, “We cherish what we wait for and what we most risk losing. Life is full of wonders…. Judaism is a sustained discipline in not taking life for granted. We were the people born in slavery so that we would value freedom.”
I truly could not have said it better myself. Often times we find ourselves frustrated when things don’t work out the way we want them to. When we don’t get the grade we worked so hard for, when our dream job doesn’t work out, when we get broken up with by a significant other. In these times of sadness and frustration it’s hard to see the light of the situation, but an unknown genius once said, “everything is okay in the end, if it’s not okay then it’s not the end.” We mustn’t let the hardships bring us down or hold us back, rather we must see these difficulties as opportunities. We never know what door lies at the end of the dark hallway. “Life is full of wonders.”