Parsha Va-yera is framed with the appearance of the Lord, in various ways, throughout the entire parsha, as various Jewish teachers have said through the ages. I wonder how the Lord, creator of the Universe – may His name be blessed forever! – can appear inside the creation? He is what we call spirit, not of this physical plane, yet He appears over and over in this physical plane. Does he appear with some physical manifestation, such as the burning bush, or smoke and fire and earthquake at Mount Sinai? Does He appear in some physical form, human or angelic? Does He only appear in our thoughts and dreams, or as a “voice” or a wind? Is He limited in any way in how He appears to us? Does He appear masculine or can He appear feminine, as G~d does not have a gender as we understand, or better has both genders, since He created both male and female in his image.
This should get us thinking about the various messages which are conveyed in the foundations of Torah, which are not conveyed to us directly by the text. Instead of reading the text at face value, the pashat, the plain and simple obvious text, we are compelled to dig deeper to the story behind the story.
In this parsha we find a man questioning the judgement of G~d, as Abraham questions G~d about His decision to destroy Sodom and the surrounding area. How can a man question G~d in the very essence of G~d as Judge of all things. Abraham promotes mercy against judgement, compelling G`d to justify His own decisions. This was an unthinkable thing to do, as echoed in the prophets and later writings – can the clay question the potter? The answer is YES, the clay can, and does, and should question the potter, as demonstrated by Abraham respectfully and thoughtfully questioning G~d.
We also have the miraculous birth of Isaac to a very old Abraham and Sarah. This miracle child becomes the next in line heir to the foundation of Israel being chosen by G~d to bring forth the Torah to the whole world.
Also the difficult story of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, as a sacrifice of the first born to G~d. So much to learn from this story alone. Did Abraham hear G~d properly in the word offering-up, used both for a burnt offering and as a command to elevate someones position in life? Why was Isaac so passive? Did this episode scar the lives of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac?
Here are some study notes: