Vayera: Realia

In the course of our every day lives, scenarios arise unexpectedly. As we, or our children get sick, we need to cancel anticipated plans to make an immediate doctor’s appointment.  Something malfunctions in our house and we require expedient service.  A situation arises at work, which we must address-even as it throws our day’s schedule/plan out of whack.  These circumstances test our patience; but they also reflect the realities of living in a genuine world.  Some people are fortunate enough to live in an ideal bubble; without the typical obstacles and challenges which await us mere mortals.  Most of us, unfortunately, do not have such a luxury.

Realia characterizes the life of Abraham and Sarah; they struggle-as we do-to make life bearable yet still satisfying.

Within the Torah portion of Vayera:

-The life partners are greeted by so-called angels; who announce that the aging (and skeptical) Sarah will soon bear a child.

-Abraham is horrified to learn that God will destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, without considering the innocent people, who may actually live there.

-Due to serious economic limitations, Abraham and Sarah must travel to an alien and hostile city.  For a second time, Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister (this time-he does not consult Sarah) out of fear for his life.


-After Sarah does give birth and Isaac begins to develop, Sarah fears that Ishmael (Abraham’s child with Sarah’s servant) will corrupt her boy.  She sternly orders Abraham to expel Ishmael; a child who is his but not hers. If you recall: Because Sarah despaired of having a child; she gives Hagar, her servant, to Abraham so that through Hagar Sarah could become a mother.  Now that Sarah has a miracle child of her own, she fears that Ishmael will corrupt Isaac and turn him to the dark side (sorry for the Star Wars reference).

-After all the above, God ostensibly dispatches Abraham to sacrifice Isaac; without Sarah’s knowledge.  Rabbinic commentary suggests that since the Torah narrative about Sarah’s death immediately follows the Isaac sacrifice story, the news must have killed her.

We might agree that the cumulative adventures of Abraham and Sarah were a little more severe than what most of us encounter. However, over the course of a lifetime; from our youth through the elderly years, we endure our share of adventures, happy and hazardous.  The Torah here, is not attempting to frighten us, but to illustrate what life is going to be like for most people in every generation.  The Torah does not require a highly contrived and staged reality show; the experiences of Sarah and Abraham serve that purpose.  I imagine that in between the challenges, the First Hebrew Family shared times of joy and elation-just as we do.  Our task is to cherish the good and not merely to lament the bad.  By sharing the Sarah/Abraham saga in such elaborate detail; the Torah presents an honest and unsanitized portrayal of life as it is.  In the end, despite the pitfalls, Sarah and Abraham enjoyed a satisfying and blessed life.

My hope is that we all can enjoy likewise…

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Klayman