Parshat Vayeira: Life as an offering to the Creator

Vayeira literally means “saw”, and let’s recall that our sages say that the verb “to see” has several meanings in Hebrew.

Besides its plain meaning regarding to what the eyes do, it also means to know because it is commonly assumed that we grasp something when we see as it is. In this regard it is better to see something than to hear about it because to see is to know.

“And [the Lord] appeared (vayeira) to him [Abraham]” (Genesis 18:1)

In the biblical context we “see” the Master of the universe when we come to Jerusalem (the Temple) to bring our offerings. This is probably the deepest meaning this verb: we have eyes as knowledge in order to know our Creator.

Hence we learn that the Lord came to see Abraham in his tent.

“Because I know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, that they shall keep the way of God, to do righteousness and justice (…).” (18:19)

These are two of God’s ways and attributes, and two of the reasons He gives us to live in this world, because it is all about His will.

This verse is abruptly juxtaposed to the next to call our attention into what is the opposite of love’s ways.

“And the Lord said, ‘Since the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and since their sin is very grave, I will descend now and see whether according to her cry which has come to Me, they have done; destruction, and if not, I will know’.” (18:20-21)

As in the generation of the Flood, the people of the valley of Sodom were already “dead” because of their corruption, and their destruction was already upon them. Divine fire destroyed their wickedness but not completely for Abraham’s nephew. Lot and his daughters, from whom two of the “nations” by Canaan would be later born after incestuous relationships, were spared.

“And Abraham was a hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said: ‘God has made laughter for me, so that all who hear will laugh (itzchak: Isaac) with [because of] me’.” (21:5-6)

Mystic sages teach that this verse foretells the Messianic era when “the Earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14) and “the Earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9).

We all will rejoice with God’s love completely revealed in the world, and we can also reveal His presence by being and manifesting love’s ways and attributes. This is how our Creator is with us as He was with Abraham.

“Abimelech and Pichol, his general, said to Abraham saying: ‘God is with you in all that you do.” (Genesis 21:22)

The portion continues with one of the most significant events that determined the relationship between Israel and the Creator.

“And he [Isaac] said: ‘Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said: ‘God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’ And they went both of them together.” (22:7-8)

Isaac knew that his father would have to make an (animal) burnt offering after Isaac’s own offering of his entire life to God, and he asked his father for the lamb. It was clear for them that their lives, as well as all that exists in creation, belong to God. It is a fundamental conception to accept His will.

By truly knowing that His love sustains all His creation we are compelled to trust in His love and will. This awareness was unbreakable in Abraham and Isaac, and that is why the passage says “and they went both of them together“.

Should it be called a test, “that God tested Abraham” (22:1) or even a trial?

As we mentioned many times, love does not cohabit with anything different from its ways and attributes because the vessel of love is love. Both Abraham and Isaac indeed succeeded in becoming this truth.

Are we able to also become the truth?

Our patriarchs did it for us, so we may emulate them as the chosen people that we are. Hence we must fulfill this destiny as the mission that our Father wants from us. Love is the light of the world, the redemption we must reveal from the darkness of ego’s fantasies and illusions.

Once we all realize that love is the material manifestation of the love of God that redeems us from our deepest grief, sadness and pain, we will be truly free.

It’s been said many times in the Torah and the Hebrew scriptures that the choice is only ours, and that we must choose life over death, love over darkness. If we are capable to create so much pain and suffering to each other in this world, we are also capable to create happiness and joy for each other.

The result of choosing ego’s illusions of lack makes us inflict suffering on us and others. In contrast, choosing love to share among us is the best joy we can experience. When love is the cause, love is also the effect.

The sacrifice of Isaac was not about his life or his body but his total devotion and commitment to the Creator. This means to be all He wants us to be in the world He created for us.

“And Abraham called the name of that place Ado-nai Yireh [God shall see, and/or God shall appear] as it is said to this day: ‘On the mount God shall appear [see]’.” (22:14)

This is where the Temple of Jerusalem (Yireh Shalem), the highest awareness of the Creator, stands. It is the same place where we bring the choicest fruits of our own love’s ways and attributes as offerings, so God may see our image and likeness of Him. It is there where we become one with God.

God already manifests His love for all His creation by sustaining it every moment. Now we in return have to elevate our love to Him, so both loves meet and become one.

This is indeed the place where we elevate all aspects and dimensions of consciousness to do His will, and these are represented by the tithes brought to the priests (Kohanim) and Levites, and the animals to be sacrificed in the Temple.

Every level and aspect of consciousness must be bound to do that which is sacred (this is the original meaning of “sacrifice”: to do the sacred). God knew that Abraham and Isaac were bound to serve Him by loving Him with all their heart, all their soul and all their might.

In Vayeira we learn again that God’s love sees us and recognizes us for the love that we are and manifest when we walk in His ways. Thus love shall be with us in all we do, as it happened with Abraham.

When we live this truth individually and collectively, redemption is already manifest. Hence we all rejoice and laugh as our matriarch Sarah did when she heard that she was going to have a child from whom we all now rejoice.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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