Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayera
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

One of the hallmarks of our great founding parents of the Jewish people was their ability to maintain communication with the Creator. God, so to speak, was a constant living presence in their lives and thoughts and actions. And therefore they were able to hear God’s voice, though God has no voice, and to visualize God appearing to them even though God has no physical appearance. God spoke to them, so to speak, through the inner voice of their own souls, which long to always reunite with the source of life from which it came. Thus the happy tidings that the stranger/angel guest informs Avraham and Sarah about the forthcoming birth of a son serves as a confirmation to Avraham of the promise that he heard from God earlier within himself as to the same event. Except that previously Avraham heard it through his own inner voice of faith and attachment to God and now he and Sarah hear it in a literal sense from the lips of the stranger/angel who stands before them in their tent. This idea of hearing God through one's own soul and spirit is reinforced to us when Midrash explains that when Moshe was sent on his mission to redeem Israel from Egypt and teach them Torah he heard that call emanate from Heaven speaking to him in the voice of his father Amram. We hear God, so to speak, through familiar voices that reverberate within our soul and heart. First, Avraham himself believes that he will have a son with Sarah and therefore later he has no longer any doubts when that message is communicated to him by the stranger/angel. Sarah, on the other hand, who never heard these tidings within herself first, casts doubt and wonderment on the words of the stranger/angel. Avraham is made aware of this and therefore explains to Sarah the source of her doubt and wonderment.

I feel that many times in our lives we sense within our inner selves a divine message and voice. It is that combination of soul and intellect that drives all human progress and optimistic hopes forward. But since we are not at the level of constant communication with our soul and our Creator we do not always hearken to that voice nor do we attribute it correctly as to its source. Jewish tradition teaches us that somehow the prophets Elijah appears regularly and constantly to human beings. He comes in different guises, forms and costumes. The truly righteous are able to identify him when he appears to them while we ordinary human beings are mostly unaware of his presence even as he stands before us. God appears to Avraham by the fact that Avraham in his righteousness and faith is constantly prepared for such an encounter. Ordinary human beings, to whom God is at best an abstract idea, certainly are unable to truly sense His presence when He appears to them. That is what the great rebbe of Kotzk meant when he said that when God said: "Go forth from your land and home and family" any human being had the potential to hear that message, not just Avraham. But unless one is attuned to "hear" God regularly through one's own inner soul, all heavenly messages will fall on deaf ears.
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