Shabbat Shalom. Yes, I know, it has been a while. Life is good, life is busy, life is hard… God understands.
This week’s portion, Vayeira, is unbelievably chock full of climactic and important events. When I first read it, I couldn’t begin to know where to start. First we have the promise to Sarah, and later the birth, of a son in her later years. We have Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife turning to salt as Lot flees with his sons. After the birth of Isaac we see Hagar and Ishmael cast out and Hagar’s despair believing the death of her son is near. Finally, we have the binding of Isaac, one of the most troubling portions in the Torah. There is more, These are just the highlights.
There are so many themes it is hard to know which to look at, which to talk about…..there’s the fallibility of humans and human love, Abraham and Sarah, Abraham and Hagar, Hagar and Ishmael, Soddom and Gomorrah; there is the struggle between human love and fallibility and the love of God – the story of Abraham and Isaac. What struck me, this time, is that this portion is filled with stories of parents and sons and the role of faith in the parenting relationship.
In this week’s portion, Sarah is told she will have a child in old age. She doesn’t believe, in fact she laughs at the notion, but then . . . she does. As Hagar turned away from her son when their water ran out, God opened her eyes and she saw a well, the source of her salvation and, more importantly the salvation of her son. Finally Abraham is tested by the unseen, by God, and when he responds in faith, God’s presence is shown, is seen, and Isaac is saved. These are some of the most troubling stories in all of the Torah, with the exception of Sarah’s story, although the idea of having a child at such an advanced age could be troubling. But, as you read, you think how could Hagar turn from her son at the time of what she believed would be his death. How could Isaac be willing to kill his son for God. I cannot imagine these things; I would throw myself in front of a train to save my child. I would sooner kill myself than my child, even if God asked it of me.
So is my faith imperfect because I would choose life over faith? I think all faith is imperfect, there is no perfection in the human condition. The God I choose to worship would not ask such a thing of me or I could not believe, that is how I solve it. Different times. My faith, imperfect though it may be, suits me, suits my life. My faith helps me to love my child more dearly, to teach him values, to protect him and nurture his intelligence and his heart. My faith asks me to offer my child to God by bringing him to Temple, to prayer, to Torah; not to the mountain for slaughter.
When you look into the faces of your children, I hope on this Shabbat you see the faces of faith, the meaning of faith and you feel closer to your God.