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Parashat Vayera

October 22, 2021
16 Cheshvan 5782
Parashat Vayera
Genesis 18:1 - 22:24

Dear Friends,

I recently had dinner with an old friend that I have known since I was a child. Memories came flooding back, stories were shared, and the histories of those we knew as children were pieced together from fragments.  It was a great deal to take in; happily we decided we would get together more often.

In some ways this portion of Bereshit has that quality of almost too much to take in to assimilate. At times it feels like a continuous tale and at other points there is that quality of overstimulation -- too much story to take in.

The portion begins with the elderly (nay, ancient) Abraham and Sarah being told they will have a baby, following a moment of extreme hospitality. That story is followed by a discussion of whether the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah should be saved, followed by the tale of Hagar and Ishmael being sent away, and culminates with the Akedah, the almost sacrifice of Isaac on a mountain top.

But life is sometimes like that; with one thing piling on another and another, it is difficult to catch one’s breath. It almost feels like a runaway train. Yet at the end of the Torah portion there is a sense of calm after the Akedah; the text names the children born into Abraham’s family within his extended family. This accounting is introduced with “and Abraham was told”.

The event of birth, as the next generation joins us, has a great deal of power. It causes us to think about the future. It has the capacity to take us out of our own journey into theirs and possibly fill us with a sense of responsibility toward the larger world in which we live, as we seek to create world that will be hospitable to the next generation.

Our thoughts turned to the future and what was possible this past Sunday when some of us gathered at RYSEC to learn more about the woods surrounding the Ethical Culture building and the invasive species that have taken hold. How can we make a difference? (see below for video)

Our actions have power.

The Torah’s narrative structure is here to provide us with a number of things simultaneously (hence the power of rereading it every year). There is the sense that our lives have many disjointed chapters but if we look carefully, the Torah has the capacity for everything to come together. There is an awareness that we are part of something greater than ourselves. Often it is that realization that allows to us forge a path of living that has both meaning and purpose.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn


Sun, December 4 2022 10 Kislev 5783