Parashat Hashavua for Vayeira 2020

Parashat Hashavua for Vayeira 

Rabbi Misha Clebaner
North Shore Temple Emanuel
Chatswood, NSW

In this week's Parsha of Vayeira, we continue with the story of Abraham and his family. Three crucial moments in the story that speak to the complexity of the human mind and heart are Abraham's passion for welcoming guests (the three visiting angels) and the heart-breaking moment of Abraham's son (Ishmael) and his mother (Hagar) being expelled from the family home, along with the near-sacrifice of Isaac upon the altar.

As humans, we have bandaged the wounds of strangers and have consoled our friends and family members during times of hardship or loss.

Yet, we have also killed and neglected. A universe within each human being. The potential to heal and provide and also the capability to harm and destroy.

In each instance, it is our choice which qualities we will draw upon as we engage with "the other". Will we see them for the totality of who they are or will our choices come from a place of fear?

When Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son, Isaac, this final test of faith for Abraham will take place on Mount Moriah. In Hebrew, Moriah has the same root-letters as "to see/roeh" and "to fear/yirah". Was the test about faith in the divine or in our ability to see beyond our fears and insecurities when dealing with our fellow human beings?

Like Abraham, do we see the three angels as exhausted travellers that need to be tended to or, also like Abraham, do we fear family disfunction or the loss of future blessings and expel or sacrifice our sons.

While this week is of particular importance to the United States, the American election will have a profound impact on the global community as a whole. From the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue to local ballot initiatives in cities across the country, each American citizen is being called to reflect on their values and to advocate for what they believe will be best for themselves and their neighbours.

On the surface, the question on the ballot may appear to be between one candidate or another, yet on a deeper level, it asks whether they will see their neighbours for who they are or if they will let fear win the day. This is the test.

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