There is a commandment given to Israel that once every 7 years, during the Festival of Sukkot, they should assemble ALL the people to hear the Torah read to them. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12). Chazal (a Hebrew acronym that means, “our sages of blessed memory”) instituted a continuous cycle of reading the Torah. They defined weekly sections so that Jews would be reading and hearing Torah every single week and complete the 5 Books of Moses in a set time. The teachers I learned under taught me to follow the yearly Torah cycle and I discovered that Chabad divides their Torah study into daily aliyot. When the Torah portion is read in its entirety on Shabbat in the synagogue, there are seven sections, seven aliyot. The Chabad tradition is to study one aliyah each day, starting Sunday and going through to Shabbat. One who does this can get a double dose of the same Torah Portion each week.
Additionally, the Ashkenazic and Sepharidc, that is Eastern European and Spanish or Iberian Peninsula communities sometime differ on how they divide the Torah Portions.
The focus of this “Aliyah by Aliyah” will be the second aliyah of the Torah Portion: Vayera
Aliyah 2 – Genesis 18:15-33
Genesis 18:15 Sarah denied it, saying, “I didn’t either laugh,” because she was afraid. He said, “Not so — you did laugh.”
Looking back at GEN 18:12 the text clearly states that Sarah laughed. It says she laughed to herself. Given that she could hear her husband asked about her laughter and she responded, that makes me think her laugh was either inaudible or completely to herself. I find it interesting that the laughter is addressed, but it is not punished or harshly chastised. It is an opportunity to declare the power of the Almighty.
Genesis 18:16 The men set out from there and looked over toward S’dom, and Avraham went with them to see them on their way.
This is the basis for the Jewish teaching to escort guests out when they leave your home.
Genesis 18:17 HaShem said, “Should I hide from Avraham what I am about to do,
Who is the LORD speaking to?
Genesis 18:18 inasmuch as Avraham is sure to become a great and strong nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by him?
Why does the future status of Israel factor into the decision here?
Genesis 18:19 For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of HaShem and to do what is right and just, so that HaShem may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him.”
Is the concern that Abraham should teach his children and his children should teach the world to know the Most High so that this type of slaughter of the wicked never needs to happen again?
Genesis 18:20 HaShem said, “The outcry against S’dom and ‘Amora is so great and their sin so serious
There is a justification given for why they should be destroyed. The Almighty is sovereign and sits as Judge over Man.
Genesis 18:21 that I will now go down and see whether their deeds warrant the outcry that has reached me; if not, I will know.”
The punishment is close to being decided on, but it will not come without an investigation. How Just and loving.
Genesis 18:22 The men turned away from there and went toward S’dom, but Avraham remained standing before HaShem.
Does Abraham realize now that these men he entertained are angels?
Genesis 18:23 Avraham approached and said, “Will you actually sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
That’s chutzpah! Did Abraham even know any of these people and their deeds? Regardlessm this is the foundation of the presumption of innocence. Perhaps there was a group like Noah and his family who were righteous among the wicked and who should be spared.
Genesis 18:24 Maybe there are fifty righteous people in the city; will you actually sweep the place away, and not forgive it for the sake of the fifty righteous who are there?
It sounds to me that Abraham is asking that the sins of many be ignored in the merit of a few.
Genesis 18:24 Far be it from you to do such a thing — to kill the righteous along with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Far be it from you! Shouldn’t the judge of all the earth do what is just?”
Abraham isn’t asking that the guilty should escape punishment altogether, but that they not bring judgement on the innocent as well.
Genesis 18:26 HaShem said, “If I find in S’dom fifty who are righteous, then I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”
50 is not a lot of good people for a single city.
Genesis 18:27 Avraham answered, “Here now, I, who am but dust and ashes, have taken it upon myself to speak to HaShem.
Abraham’s humility is moving and it show’s the LORD’s greatness that He should condescend to Man at all.
Genesis 18:28 What if there are five less than fifty righteous?” He said, “I won’t destroy it if I find forty-five there.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt to try.
Genesis 18:29 He spoke to him yet again: “What if forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of the forty I won’t do it.”
This is characterized as Abraham bargaining with the Almighty, but is it really? He seems to me to be testing and searching to learn the lowest acceptable number that will spare Sodom.
Genesis 18:30 He said, “I hope HaShem won’t be angry if I speak. What if thirty are found there?” He said, “I won’t do it if I find thirty there.”
Is this a back and forth conversation or is time elapsing between Abraham’s requests?
Genesis 18:31 He said, “Here now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to HaShem. What if twenty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of the twenty I won’t destroy it.”
According to Chazal, Sodom was the name for the Sodom region which contained Sodom, Gomorrah, Tzoar and two others I do not recall. Sodom was the big city anchoring the 5 together.
Genesis 18:32 He said, “I hope HaShem won’t be angry if I speak just once more. What if ten are found there?” He said, “For the sake of the ten I won’t destroy it.”
Why did Abraham stop at 10? I’m not sure why, but it does bring to mind that the Noah and 7 other people were saved from the Flood, similar to how Lot and his kin were saved from the destruction that would come.
Genesis 18:33 HaShem went on his way as soon as he had finished speaking to Avraham, and Avraham returned to his place.
To call back to the mention of hospitality from before, I does this sound like Abraham escorted the departing Almighty as well?
Before I go, I want to answer questions raised at the beginning of this session. These are my opinions, based on my time studying under various teachers and while I try to set aside any commentaries while examining each aliyah, I will allow myself to bring some back in for this section. I will disclose where I am getting these ideas where relevant.
- Why Does Israel Have to Do with Sodom?
- Did Abraham Know He Ate with Angels?
- Why is Ten Special?
That concludes my journey through Vayera for the year 5783.
I hope these words have been a blessing to you.
May our Heavenly Father give you peace and joy.
This is Matthew and I am Walking In Liberty.