Shalom, this is the very first Sweet and Good Torah. We want to offer some sweet and good words of Torah filled with ruchniyot (spiritual), to go with our delicious food which is the gasmiyut (physical). It is a great parsha (portion of Torah) for me to begin, because 42 years ago I was born on this parsha of Vayeira, which means “and He appeared.” This refers to Hashem (the infinite Creator of all Heaven and Earth) appearing to Avraham Aveinu (Abraham our father) in Alonei Mamre in Eretz Yisrael ( the Land of Israel) on the third day after his circumcision at the age of ninety-nine.
One aspect of the Parsha is the birth of the Jewish people, and every part of the creation of this new nation is miraculous and on a supernatural scale. Avraham began a nation by teaching that there is one infinite Creator of all mankind, Who sustains all of his creations every day with chesed (kindness). He taught this by treating everyone passing by him with chesed.
The Midrash tells us that Avraham planted a beautiful orchard on the edge of the desert in Be’er Sheva. And he provided a tent which was open on all four sides to attract guests from all directions. When people heard of this free hotel, as you can imagine, it attracted many customers. After serving each guest an incredible meal, Avraham would say now you must recite a blessing “Baruch ata Hashem melech haOlam (Blessed is Hashem the King of the Universe) whose food we have eaten.” The diners would be outraged and complain, they would say, “Who is this King of the Universe?” Avraham would then present a bill for a large number of gold pieces. If the travelers refuses to pay, he would ask them how much a meal of bread, meat and wine should cost in the wilderness. By his acts of kindness and hospitality, he led many people to see that Hashem was giving them delicious food to eat every day, and that He should be thanked by a blessing.
Avraham’s acts of kindness were the beginning of the Jewish people, and a glimpse into our role to play in the world. But Avraham would need descendants to carry on the work, he had began. Hashem himself appeared to Avraham, a miraculous event for an infinite Being to stand before a human being. This in itself is beyond my understanding of what an actual meeting with G-d is like. But even more miraculous is that in Avraham’s distress of not having guest to entertain, on the third and most painful day after the Bris Milah (circumcision), Hashem then sends three angels in the form of Arab merchants.
As difficult as it is to imagine speaking with an Almighty, All-Powerful and Eternal being. It is even more incomprehensible to leave this conversation, and run to invite three pagan Arabs into your home for a meal. The Midrash explains that the three travelers, are really the melachim (angels) Michael, Gavriel and Raphael. Michael delivers the message, “return, I will return to you at this time next year, there will be life; and henai! a son to Sarah your wife.” (Bereishis/Genesis 18:10) Sarah heard this message, while at the entrance to the tent and laughed saying according to Rashi, “is it also true I will give birth and I am old”. (Bereishis/Genesis 18:13)
A year later on the 15th of Nissan, which is Pesach (Passover); Yitzhak (Isaac) whose name means laughter was born. Sarah said, “Elokim (G-d in judgement) has made laughter for me; whoever hears will laugh for me.” (Bereishis/Genesis 21:6). Rashi explains from the Midrash that Sarah’s statement of “whoever hears will laugh for me”, means that many infertile women were remembered and conceived along with her. Many sick people were cured on that day. Many prayers were answered along with hers. And there was much cheerfulness in the world.
This is the miraculous beginning of the Jewish people! We now find ourselves living in a world where science, investigation of the physical world, is worshipped as a religion. So how are we to relate to our origins as a people, which is miraculous and above the confines of the natural world. The Torah teaches us our history is not only supernatural, but brings happiness and laughter to the world in a miraculous and supernatural way.
It seems to me that Avraham teaching the world about the miracles and kindness of Hashem, was rewarded by a people that are born of miracles and kindness. We are a statistical impossibility – that a 100 year old man and a 90 year old women can give birth to a child. That a small nation can survive in the hostility of other nation’s actions for over 4000 years. But it is our very existence as the Jewish people, that illuminates Hashem’s kindness to all living things in the world.
The most incredible part is that when we follow the actions of Avraham and Sarah of revealing G-d in this world through our own acts of kindness, Hashem then helps us by creating a world where everyone can experience a miraculous existence, beyond the narrow confines of what science says is possible. The knowledge that there is an infinite Being caring for us, and protecting us every day brings laughter into the world. We are an ancient nation, and maybe a little tired from the difficulty of tikun haOlam (fixing the world); but through acts of kindness, we can become revitalized. We can relearn how miraculous the world really is, and experience the laughter ourselves.
I hope you all enjoyed this sweet and good Torah, everyone should be blessed with a sweet and good Shabbos.