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Vayera

"He raised his eyes and saw and, lo, three men were standing before him" Genesis 18:2

    Vayera contains two of Abraham's most iconic stories: the story of Sodom and the Akedah (binding of Isaac).

    The stories appear to conflict: in one, Abraham argues with God about the destruction of a city which surely contains righteous, along with wicked, inhabitants. "Shall the judge of all the earth not do justice?"

    Yet when Abraham is told to sacrifice "your son, your only son, the one that you love", he utters no word of protest. Rather he "arose early in the morning to saddle his donkey".

    Many Jewish thinkers can be placed into one of two ideological camps: those that lionise Abraham at Sodom, and those that revere Abraham of the Akedah. Is our role to argue with God, or is it to submit to His will?

    There is, however, another story, in which Abraham acts towards God in an altogether different manner. The opening verses of the parashah read: "And the Lord appeared to Abraham... Abraham raised his eyes and saw three men, he saw them, and ran to greet them."

    A midrash understands that the strangers interrupt the God-Abraham dialogue. Rashi gives the astonishing comment that Abraham "told the Holy One to wait while he ran to welcome the guests".

    Here, Abraham neither argues with God nor submits to His will. Rather, he asks Him to "hold the line", while Abraham attends to the urgent matter of greeting strangers.

    Together these stories teach a critical lesson. Against those who would champion the Akedah model or the Sodom model, Abraham teaches us that no single model way of relating to God is sufficient.

    Sometimes we ask God to wait while we attend to something else. Occasionally, it is correct to argue with God. Other times, acceptance of His will – no matter how difficult – is all we are able to do.

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