Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayera
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

17 CHESHVAN 5769
Our father Avraham is faced with the loss of his two sons, Yishamel and Yitzchak. Yishmael is cast out into the desert eventually there to become a warrior and an opreesor of others. He will not return to the house of Avraham again and though he will retain some of the traits of the house of Avaraham - hospitality chief among these - but basically he will always remain an enemy of Yitzchak and of the chief values of Avraham. Yitzchak himself is almost sacrificed by his father on the altar of Moriah amnd the trauma of the akeidah will remain with him throughout his life. The life of Sarah will be shortened by these events and the goal of Avraham to create a special people out of his progeny is constantly endangered. How difficult are the events of this week's parsha for Avraham! All of his years of struggle and accomplishment lie in the balance and he may yet find defeat in his quest for continuity and immortality.The supreme tests in his lifetime are concentrated within his own family and the ability to persevere and through Yitzchak to build an eternal future for his ideas, beliefs and values. Avraham will grieve over his "lost" son Yishmael but he will not allow that to interfere with his upbringing of Yitzchak to be his successor. Unlike Yitzchak who constantly attempts to "save" his son Eisav, the Torah does not record for us any such sort of attempt by Avraham to rehibilitate Yishmael. Avraham is too concentrated on the ask of educating and developing Yitzchak. It is ruthless triage but of the most necessary kind.

The Torah records for us at the end of the parsha the generations of Nachor, the brother of Avraham. Nachor remained behind in Aram when Avraham left for the Land of Israel. The Torah makes no mention of any connection between the family of Nachor and that of Avraham over the many decades of their living at seperate locations. But family is family and the birth of Rivkah into the family of Nachor signals Avraham that the future of Yitzchak and Avraham himself lies with Rivkah. The challenges of life, especially of Jewish life, take many different twists and turns. Finding the proper mate for Yitzchak will prove to be as great a challenge to Avraham as almost sacrificing Yitzchak on the altar of Moriah was. Avraham is forced to turn to the almost only relatively safe haven that he can find - the family of his brother Nachor. The idea and centrality of family in Jewish life and history is almost legendary. Avraham and Yitzchak wish to avoid the fate of Yishmael who became disconnected completely from Avraham's family. God sees the Jewish people as a family - loony uncle and all. The struggle of Avraham and of Yitzchak as well is to construct such a family that will bring blessing to itself and the world at large.
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