Parshat Vayera

Ben Abrams and Ava Blockston
Ben Abrams (Photo by Rachael Abrams) and Ava Blockston (Photo by Stephanie Blockston)

Practicing hospitality

By Ben Abrams

In my Torah portion, Vayera, Avraham is visited by three guests. Tradition says that Avraham’s tent in the desert was always open, and according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Avraham would take every traveler that passed by into his house to feed them. He would always drop everything just to help his guests. For example, Avraham stops talking to God when he notices three guests walking toward him. He doesn’t know that these guests are actually angels from God, but he still does not hesitate and invites them inside.

Later in Vayera, two of the same angels arrive in Sodom disguised as travelers. Lot, Avraham’s nephew, lets them into his house and shows hospitality toward them. That night, the men of Sodom form a mob to try to get to the travelers. The commentaries say that the people of Sodom did not practice hospitality.

Lot behaves differently and shows kindness. Because of this, the mob tries to break down Lot’s door, but the angels protect him from the mob. They also inform him that Sodom will soon be destroyed and that he should leave with his family. By doing so, the angels save the lives of Lot and his daughters. In this case, Lot was rewarded for his kindness by the angels giving him a warning and helping him leave Sodom.

I think that kindness almost always pays off. Kindness isn’t about expecting something in return. It is about the personal satisfaction of taking action to do something great in the world. Kindness costs us nothing and always helps someone feel good.

Today, we should carry on the spirit of Avraham and Lot and show hospitality to strangers. In Hebrew we call this “hachnasat orchim.” Hospitality strengthens the whole community. Sharing food creates friendship. When you reach out, you build a connection, and that person might in turn help you or others in the future. Today with COVID, it is sometimes difficult to invite people into our homes. However, we can still practice the values of hospitality by building relationships and showing kindness to others.

Ben Abrams is a seventh grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

What we can learn from Abraham

By Ava Blockston

Vayera is all about Abraham — his admirable characteristics and also some of the challenges he faced. The portion begins with three traveling men who stop to visit Abraham at his home. He welcomes them with open arms, a delicious meal in the shade, water to wash their feet and a place to rest. From this, we learn a few very important qualities from Abraham. For example, we learn about hospitality, kindness to others and a willingness to be helpful, even to strangers. In return, the strangers, who are really angels, tell the childless Abraham and Sarah that they will soon have a son.

Then, the men leave and go to the city of Sodom, while God appears and tells Abraham that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are going to be destroyed because of all the horrible things people in those cities have done. So Abraham tries to bargain with God and eventually convinces God to save the cities if at least 10 innocent people are found. This shows Abraham’s concern for justice for innocent people.

But despite all of Abraham’s admirable qualities, his life was not easy. We soon learn that the men who had paid a visit to Abraham in the beginning of the portion were indeed correct. Sarah and Abraham have a son, whom they name Isaac. Isaac grows up in the family, along with his half brother Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham and his second wife Hagar. But Sarah is concerned that Ishmael would be a bad influence on Isaac or that he would be given the family’s inheritance instead of Isaac, so she asks Abraham to send him and his mother away and with great distress Abraham agrees. To add more trouble for the family, God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in order to test Abraham’s loyalty. Surprisingly, Abraham agrees to do this horrible thing but, fortunately, Isaac gets replaced by a ram.

Abraham’s life was filled with many challenges, like leaving his parent’s home in order to follow God’s command to be the father of the Jewish people, arguing with God, watching cities be destroyed, banishing his oldest son, Ishmael, and almost losing his youngest son, Isaac. But, everyone has challenges in life. Abraham showed kindness to random people despite his challenges. No matter what life throws at us, we still need to be kind to people, even though it may be really hard sometimes.

Ava Blockston is an eighth grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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