Thursday, November 1, 2012

See Clearly What Is Really Important - Parashat Vayera

It is almost here…. Election Day.  It took us a long time to get here. We weathered quite a storm. It feels like it took 40 years. It might do us some good to read Parashat Vayera, which includes the story of Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality. It might even serve as a reminder of our civic duties in the upcoming election.

Abraham is sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day, as he sees the hazy shadows of three people approaching.  He doesn’t wait until he knows who they are, which tribe they belong to, but at ninety-nine years he jumps up to welcome them into his and Sarah’s tent. Can you imagine how it would be to sit on the front steps of your home, and call out to someone that was passing by, to come over and sit for a while, and maybe join you for a cup of coffee? It would probably never happen. But, that’s what Abraham and Sarah did. They kept the sides of their tent open, welcoming the stranger from every direction. Thank goodness for them,  that they were like that.
So this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Vayera, begins: Vayera eylav Hashem...”And God appeared to Abraham as he was sitting before the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” Abraham receives a visit.
They turn out to be angels, Messengers from God, and it is from this story that the rabbis of the Talmud (Shabbat 127a) state that “hospitality to strangers is greater than an encounter with the Shechinah (the Divine presence).”
Abraham looks up and sees three men standing in front of him. Abraham ran to greet them and said, 'Please come in! I'll bring some water, and you can wash up and rest...' Abraham hurried to Sarah's tent and said, 'Quickly make three cakes.' Can you imagine...just sitting on our front steps awaiting a passerby, and welcoming them in?
After what so many of us have experienced this past week, may we all have the courage and wisdom to see clearly what is really important, like our ancestors Abraham and Sarah did, and in the words of our Prophet Micah: do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.


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