I have a confession to make I dreaded having to reflect and glean something meaningful for this Dvar that did not twist, bend, weave, or bob into the “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” or “ I’m a man of faith” worlds of religious approach. Is there a catch phrase for a “thinking man‘s” path to righteousness? Vayeira quickly moves from one event and set of circumstances to the next. As I read this portion I tried all the tricks of the trade like picking a secondary character and running with it, or take the fan favorite approach and explore the sexual politics that are prevalent in Genesis. None of those were gelling it just seemed this week’s portion was yet another collection of stories chronicling the lives of some of our earliest Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Then it hit me Abraham’s story is about unity and disunity.
In Vayeira the split between Abraham’s first son Ishmael and his younger son Isaac takes place. Two brothers, two nations, two faiths, two names that start with the letter I, and it is precisely that I (or you, me. Etc.) against I . We as created beings infused with the knowledge of good and evil are constantly at odds with ourselves and others to the Nth degree. Call it religion, opinion, politics, or whatever we like labels and we like taking sides. For example, this faith of ours has numerous denominations and right now Chasidic and unaffiliated liberal Judaism are popular while everything in between seems to be struggling a little. It’s so very hard not to be dismissive of the other. Being accepting of the other side of the coin is scary it’s like saying I might be wrong, and who would ever want to be that?
Sarah’s disappointment in herself leads to unneeded pressures within her home. Ishmael is likened to a stubborn animal only because his father’s preferred wife is jealous of him while his mother his jealous of Sarah. He is a boy placed into a domestic war zone by others, of course he is going to be difficult at times. Think about this when Sarah makes Hagar and Ishmael leave their home Abraham is saddened while Hashem provides for them in the wilderness, He even blesses Ishmael by allowing him to father a nation. On the other side of the line we read that Isaac is the son whom Abraham loves. Talk about a tangled web woven.
Here is why this is so important today. Many of us try and foster this ideal of the individual who is diverse and complex yet often at times we forget how to just live our lives with others. Dialogue and debate are crucial for a healthy community, but there is a time for that and a time to sit down, break bread, and laugh with those around you. It is important to live life and that can only truly be done when you and those around you are healthy in mind, body, and spirit. If all you dwell on is which side of the aisle some of your views may rest you will never foster a healthy life. Know what you believe and why just be able to foster that sense of a little bit of Eden while living your life day to day.
Just as both brothers survived and prospered so can we as individuals and as a community. I want to know what you think! Comment below or send me a note. Jeremiah@punktorah.org Twitter @circlepitbimah.