Parashah #4 Vayera (He Appeared) B’resheet (Genesis) 18:1-22:24

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah:Vayeira (He appeared) B’resheet (Genesis) 18-22
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 4:1-23
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 9:6-9
We begin this week’s parasha with a monumental event in the life of Abraham.
It is frightening: “Some time later G-d tested Avraham.”
It is dramatic and haunting: “Take your son, your only son, Yitzchak whom you love.”
It is life-altering: “…and go to the region of Moriah.”
Perhaps most of all, it is confusing: “…and elevate him there as an olah (burnt offering) on one of the mountains that I will tell you.” Abraham must certainly have thought, “How can this be?”
When we consider the Akeida we need to read the text carefully, and note what it does say, and what the text does not say. Is it our imagination or is it our faulty memory? Things we think are in the text are absent, and things we don’t remember suddenly “appear.” Let’s take a closer look at Genesis 22:1 and forward:
Sometime later (“after these things) G-d tested Avraham. He said to him, ‘Avraham!’ And he answered, ‘Here I am,’ [Then G-d said], “Take your son, your only son, Yitzchak, whom you love, Yitz’chak; and go to the region of Moriyah. There you are to offer him as an olah (burnt offering) on a mountain that I will point out to you. Avraham got up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, together with Yitz’chak his son. He cut the wood for the olah (burnt offering departed and went toward the place G-d had told him about.”
The first noteworthy term is “test”. While we have learned that Avraham was tested ten different ways, the only instance which is explicitly called a test, and in which the nature of the test is explicit, is the Akeida. This then is the quintessential test, the ultimate test.
Isaac is portrayed in Christianity as a young innocent boy, helpless to intervene on his own behalf. However, we can determine his age if we take the time to do a little research and math. Sarah gave birth to Isaac at age 90 and she dies at the age of 127. If we subtract 90 from 127 we find Isaac was 37 years old. Now, if we take 37 and apply the principles of Gematria, we find that 3+7=10. The number 10 = judgment=a minyan. Isaac stands as the quintessential example of judgment. Abraham on the other hand, was considered the quintessential example of kindness/hospitality. The essence of these two men illustrate the duality of Gevurah (Justice/judgment) and Chesed (unmerited kindness) attributes of G-d.
Isaac is portrayed in Christianity as a young innocent boy, helpless to intervene on his own behalf. However, we can determine his age if we take the time to do a little research and math. Sarah gave birth to Isaac at age 90 and she dies at the age of 127. If we subtract 90 from 127 we find Isaac was 37 years old. Now, if we take 37 and apply the principles of Gematria, we find that 3+7=10. The number 10 = judgment=a minyan. Isaac stands as the quintessential example of judgment. Abraham on the other hand, was considered the quintessential example of kindness/hospitality. The essence of these two men illustrate the duality of Gevurah (Justice/judgment) and Chesed (unmerited kindness) attributes of G-d.
At the age of 37, Isaac could have easily overtaken his father, but we see him obediently submitting to his own sacrifice. This illustrates the fact that Isaac was observant to the precepts of G-d even though the Torah had not been given at this time. Moreover, we can compare the entire drama of the Akida as a foreshadowing of Yahshua’s sacrifice. Even the age of the two men were similar. The extra 4 years of Isaac may be attributed to the meaning of the number 4 in Gematria; earthly perfection, whereas the number 3 in 33 which was Yahshua’s age as representing that which is substantial and complete in its entirety in Gematria. Obviously, G-d decries any premeditated killing of a human; however, Yahshua gave up His own life, willingly becoming both the scapegoats and the Paschal Lamb for us. Again we see the duality of judgment and kindness represented in these animals and their purpose. In traditional Judaism there is a doctrine that the willfully death of a human for his brethren counts as a mitzvah and carries merit onto those for whom this sacrifice was made, in effect atoning for them. So it was and is with Yahshua’s sacrifice.
What was the purpose of Abraham’s test? G-d knew that Abraham would sacrifice his son if required of him by G-d. After all, G-d is all knowing, all seeing, and all present (present everywhere at once). Again, the number 3 comes into play. Knowing in advance how Abraham would act, it would seem G-d would have spared him such anguish. However, G-d shapes us and refines us for our ultimate good (Jer. 29:11; Rom. 8:28) even though it may “hurt” in our perception of reality. This is not easy to understand. This test was for Abraham and Isaac. G-d never allows us to be tested and tried beyond that which we can overcome, and we can overcome anything through G-d’s strength if we but ask (Rom. 5:4; James 1:3; Phil. 4:13). We must go through the refinement process so we can learn and grow in our trust and knowledge that we really CAN overcome obstacles and adversity through observance to and love of G-d and His Torah. We are born with the potential to learn and discern right from wrong and the correct ways in which we are to deal with our fellow man and how we are to worship and obey G-d. Without experiences that expose us to opportunities to make the right choices, we can never learn the way to live. This is why the Torah was given along with all the trials and tribulations suffered by G-d’s people documented within its pages. We repeatedly read of how the prophets, disciples (with the exception of Judas who chose wrongly), overcame horrible trials and tribulations and triumphed, even though they made mistakes along the way. Whenever we choose good over evil, we not only pass the immediate test, but we become more secure in G-d and better people.
So how can we know if we have the potential to pass a test? In “Ethics of the Fathers” (3:18), Rabbi Akiva says that man is loved by G-d because G-d made man in His image, but the fact that G-d let man know he was created in His image shows even greater love for man. By letting us know who we are, G-d showed us our potential. Recall that we are told emphatically that the Torah can be obeyed in its entirety (Deut. 30:12-13). We have the potential. One who is created in G-d’s image can reach unbelievable heights. By testing us, G-d helps us to realize our potential so we can become better people and be a light that shines forward for all mankind in a dark world (Matt. 5:16). We have to be tested in ways that will develop our weakest character traits. If we don’t pass the first time, G-d may in His Chesed preserve us for a second or even third chance to get it right; to refine the character flaw that must be corrected.
When we continue to read the text we are left searching for something which is not there. In fact, nowhere in the entire set of instructions do we find the word that is most closely associated with this series of events: G-d never does command Avraham to bind Yitzchak or to tie his son in any way. Despite this, for all time this section is known as “the binding (Akeida) of Yitzchak.”
There is something else missing, something far more troubling: At no point in the narrative does G-d command Avraham to kill Yitzchak. The exact words are “v’ha’alyahu sham l’olah” – “elevate him there as an olah (burnt offering).” This implies a total consecration offering or setting apart as was required of Yahshua.
Rashi comments on this verse, pointing out that G-d never said to slaughter Yitzchak. G-d did not want Yitzchak’s life to be ended. He wanted Yitzchak to be “raised up”, designating him as an “olah.”. Once he was uplifted, He commanded Avraham to take Yitzchak down.
Were we to conclude from our cursory reading that G-d had indeed commanded Avraham to slaughter his son, we would have good reason to be concerned and question G-d righteousness and honesty: elderly, saintly, loving, kind Avraham is asked to perform a grotesque and horrifying act – to kill his own son. Clearly, the episode’s finale would allow us to modify our understanding: When G-d tells Avraham to take Yitzchak down from the altar, the larger ultimate message and lesson would be G-d’s declaration against human sacrifice.
If G-d never did ask for the slaughter, why did Avraham seem to think He had? What was on Avraham’s mind? Assuredly, Avraham must have had conflicting thoughts about the entire event that was about to occur. After all, G-d made promises to Avraham based on his diligent search for the Truth and his strength to leave the idolatrous society from which he came. How could G-d now ask of him an act that was typical of such an apostate society? Furthermore, how could G-d carry out His promises through Yitz’chak if his only son was to be killed?
We should note that, prior to the Akeida, Avraham erected numerous altars, but never brought an offering upon them. G-d appeared to Avram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to G-d who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7)
In these verses, Avraham receives confirmation that indeed he has found the holy place that G-d had spoken of. He is granted revelation, and to express his thanks he builds an altar. But quite significantly, nothing is placed upon it. In subsequent chapters Avraham builds altars on various occasions, and never puts anything on them. Instead, he “calls out to G-d”; he prays.
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to God and called on the name of God. (Genesis 12:8)
From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Avram called on the name of G-d. (Genesis 13:3-4)
If Avraham had never brought a korban (sacrifice) prior to the Akeida, why would he assume that now G-d requires a sacrifice?
There is another, more subtle point to consider: The name of G-d used in the text which commands the Akeida is Elohim. This name is never used in the Torah in association with sacrifices:
It was taught: R. Simeon b. ‘Azzai said, ‘Come and see what is written in the chapter of the sacrifices. Neither (the names) El nor Elohim are found there, but only (the Tetragrammaton) ‘(YHVH)’, so as not to give sectarians any occasion to rebel. (Talmud Menachot 110a)
It is interesting that in the Akeida story, an offering is eventually brought – but only after an angel of G-d (YHVH) interceded. Avraham passed the test, yet so did Yitz’chak. For Yitz’chak was 37 years old at the time. If we add these numbers by using the Hebrew number system of Gematria, 7+3=10. The number 10 signifies judgment. It is also interesting to note that in rabbinical Judaism, 10 men are required to be present in the Shul before services can be held. This is known as a minyan.
Another interesting point is that Avraham is considered the epitome of kindness, while Yitz’chak is considered the epitome of justice. This is just one of infinite dichotomies found in the universe. Just think of a few of the most familiar; night-day; black-white; good-evil; flood-drought; Avraham(kindness)-Yitz’chak(justice). Get the picture? Though the word Akeida means binding, it is not in the context of which we are most commonly taught. This binding occurred between Avraham (kindness) and Yitz’chak (justice) as one in harmony with G-d. Just as G-d provided the ram for the olah offering in response to Avraham’s and Yitz’chak’s obedience to and trust in G-d, G-d provided His only Son Yahshua HaMashiach as an olah offering to make a way for those who would be obedient to G-d’s Torah out of that same love and trust. Verse 22”19 says it all; “They got up and went together to Be’er-Sheva, and Avraham settled in Be’er Sheva. By the way, the word sheva is translated as oath and seven (spiritual perfection)!
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 4:1-23
In this week’s Torah reading, G-d promises a child to Abraham and Sarah, despite childless Sarah’s advanced age. This week’s haftarah describes a similar incident that occurred many years later — the prophet Elisha assuring an elderly childless woman that she will bear a child.
The haftarah discusses two miracles performed by the prophet Elisha. The first miracle involved a widow who was heavily in debt, and her creditors were threatening to take her two sons as slaves to satisfy the debt. When the prophet asked her what she had in her home, the widow responded that she had nothing but a vial of oil. Elisha told her to gather as many empty containers as possible — borrowing from neighbors and friends as well. She should then pour oil from her vial into the empty containers. She did as commanded, and miraculously the oil continued to flow until the last empty jug was filled. The woman sold the oil for a handsome profit, and had enough money to repay her debts and live comfortably.
The second miracle: Elisha would often pass by the city of Shunam, where he would dine and rest at the home of a certain hospitable couple. This couple even made a special addition to their home, a guest room designated for Elisha’s use. When the prophet learned that the couple was childless, he blessed the woman that she should give birth to a child in exactly one year’s time. And indeed, one year later a son was born to the aged couple.
A few years later the son complained of a headache and died shortly thereafter. The Shunamit woman laid the lifeless body on the bed in Elisha’s designated room, and quickly summoned the prophet. Elisha hurried to the woman’s home and miraculously brought the boy back to life.
B’rit Chadashah Romans 9:6-9 (1) “For not everyone from Israel is truly part of Israel;(7) indeed, not all the descendants are the seed of Avraham; rather, ‘what is to be called your “seed” will be in Yitz’chak.(8) In other words, it is not the physical children who are the children of G-d, but the children the promise refers to who are considered seed.(9) For this is what the promise said: At the time set, I will come; and Sarah will have a son”
Let’s take this apart for closer examination. The first sentence tells us that not everyone who is a biological Israelite is truly part of Israel (true believers). This makes sense but is seldom explained or understood. Christians and others translate Israel one way, and one way only; that is those who are biological Israelites. They neglect to realize the fact that 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel were dispersed over the land and were not considered a separate people by G-d (See Isaiah 50:1-2 where G-d divorces Israel).
Verse 7 and 8 tell us that what is to be called “your seed” comes from Yitz’chak’s loins. He is the son of promise. This once again proves that those who have descended from Ishma’el are not considered the seed of Avraham. This includes the Arab race. Some Muslims claim that the Land of Israel belongs to the Arabs on the ground that they are ‘Abraham’s seed” through Yishma’el. These verses in Romans prove that to be a false claim. This is further verified in verse 9. These verses reflect back on Genesis 17:18 and forward. Take a close look at the similarity. G-d’s Word is consistent; both the written AND the Living (Yahshua):
Avraham said to G-d, ‘if only Yishma’el could live in your presence!’ G-d answered, ‘No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you are to call him Yitz’chak [laughter]. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. But as for Yishma’el, I have heard you. I have blessed him. I will make him fruitful and give him many descendants. He will father twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Yitz’chak, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis