David Curwin
David Curwin

Between Vayera and Chaye Sara

The pinnacle of Vayera (and the entire life of Avraham) is the Akeda. Based on the divisions of the parshiot, it would seem that after the event, there’s a small postscript about Nachor’s family, and then in next week’s “episode” we encounter another dramatic story – the death of Sarah and her burial.

However, between the lines, there’s another story being told.

Let’s look at where each of the characters are after the Akeda. At the end of Vayera, we see that Avraham, and only Avraham, went to Beer Sheva:

“Abraham then returned to his servants, and they departed together for Beer-sheba; and Abraham stayed in Beer-sheba.” (Bereshit 22:19)

But what about Sarah? There’s no textual evidence she was ever in Beer Sheva. And the beginning of Chaye Sarah (Bereshit 23:2) has her dying in Kiryat Arba / Chevron.

While it is possible to explain why Avraham was in Beer Sheva when Sarah died in Chevron, it does seem to indicate some kind of rift in the family unity.

This idea is strengthened by looking into where Yitzchak went. We don’t see him at the end of the Akeda, and as I mentioned, the verse only describes Avraham’s return from the mountain.

We next find Yitzchak in Beer Lechai Roi (Bereshit 24:62). Beer Lechai Roi was founded  in Bereshit 16:14, when Hagar fled from her masters, and was told there  that she would have a son named Yitzchak. So the place was clearly associated with Yishmael. Why would Yitzchak go there, of all places?

I think that Yitzchak’s reaction to his father’s religious passion drove him to Yishmael. They both felt that Avraham had gone too far and was willing to reject them for a higher purpose.

Now this isn’t to say that this was a permanent rupture. Yishmael and Yitzchak both bury Avraham, and it seems that there was no major tension between father and sons. But I think it does lay the groundwork for the future stories.

Yitzchak decided that when he became a father, he would not reject his children no matter what. This is what caused him to continue to favor Esav, despite Rivka’s concerns and Esav’s problematic behavior.

Yaakov, in turn, saw Yitzchak’s “blind” justice and in response felt that it was not fair to treat everyone the same. And so Yaakov told himself that he would certainly show preference to a worthy child, even if he wasn’t the oldest, despite the tensions this might cause with the other siblings.

Of course, this decision of Yaakov’s is what led to the selling of Yosef and everything that followed that.

To me, this whole process seems hinted at in those verses in Vayera and Chaye Sarah.

About the Author
David Curwin is a writer living in Efrat. He has been writing about the origin of Hebrew words and phrases, and their connection to other languages, on his website balashon.com since 2006. He has also published widely on topics relating to Bible and Jewish philosophy.
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