Parshas Vayeira: The Rules of Life

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 11/06/20

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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Throughout life we all endure ‘nisyonos’ — trials and tribulations. 

Aside from its objective in forging our character and faith, we are also expected to act on them. After overcoming a challenge, we have to consider its message and charge. 

After Avraham reaches the pinnacle of the Ten Trials the Akeida, he does not sit on his laurels, but ponders its lesson. 

The very first verse after the Akeida reads: It came to pass after הדברים האלה, these things... 

The Midrash says Ha’Devarim here translates as ‘words’, referring to Avraham’s הרהורי דברים thoughts, an inner dialogue with himself contemplating the practical message within this divinely directed event. 

Avraham considered the fact that Yitzchok at the time was not yet married with children, were he to have slaughtered him Yitzchok would have not left a legacy. Avraham therefore initiated an effort to forgo the pursuit for the perfect candidate as Yitzchok’s soul mate, and settle for one of the righteous daughters of his comrades, Anar, Eshkol and Mamre, even though they didn’t have the best yichus pedigree. 

But Yitzchok survived, so what was he worried about? Did he think G-d might test him again and this time carry out the full deed? 

There are two diametrically opposed theories over what prodded Avraham to quickly find a bride for his son. 

One view explains that Avraham considered that perhaps he failed after all. If Yitzchok would have established a family already, perhaps G-d would have instructed him to actually bring Yitzchok fully as a sacrifice, since there would be a continuation of his mission within his progeny even were he to die! This realization compelled him to move forward in finding him his wife, just in case the opportunity of another Akeida arose. 

Another perspective observes in this episode, the remarkable Hashgacha — providence, that specifically commanded him to refrain from slaughtering Yitzchok, precisely because he had no children yet, for otherwise there would be no continuance. 

Which position is correct? Does it really matter? 

Both see a divine directive, in this case identical goals, but from two diverse angles. 

After all the hishtadlus in making decisions is done one must realize there is no right or wrong, as long as one pursues his truth purely. 

This is the capstone message of all Avraham’s nisyonos. Do not sit back and relish your accomplishment, but rather contemplate what is its directive to ‘you’, from your perspective and unique mission. 

Perhaps there is an additional, even more vital lesson here. 

After Avraham resolves to find a suitable candidate from a less respectful background, G-d reveals to him, there is no need to look further, as Rivkah, the granddaughter of  his brother Nachor, the wife destined for Yitzchok, has been born. 

We frequently act and often fail in our goal. Because the goal is not accomplishment, but simply acting with honest conviction being loyal to the truths of our beliefs. 

These four verses at the end of our Sidra — VaYera, which follow the story of the Akeida, are read on Rosh Hashana and included in its Torah reading for that most propitious day. 

It merely records the names of the eight children of Nachor that Milkah his wife bore him. Among them Besuel the father of Rivkah. It also lists the names of the four children, Maachah, his concubine bore to him as well. 

The Akeida is central to the theme of Rosh Hashana as it is the merit that stands up for us in gaining a favorable judgment. But why read these extra, tangential verses, that are off topic? 

The Midrash points out that there is a contrast indicated in these verses between the family of Nachor consisting of eight children from his wife Milkah and four children from his concubine Reumah, and the family of Yaakov, descended from Avraham, that was comprised of eight children from his wives Rachel and Leah, and four more from the maidservants Bilhah and Zilpah. 

Rashi adds that Milkah sought to equate her family to that of Avraham. 

Perhaps it alludes to her gloating over the flourishing of her family that clearly accelerated more quickly than that of Avraham which slowly developed over time, and only with Yaakov’s family did the family number twelve children. 

The difference lays in the fact that we only flourish through trials and tribulations, navigating our way to success by determining the will of G-d in each test, painstakingly building an eternal structure that will reach to eternity. 

The very last word in this Sidra is the name of מעכה. Earlier sources taught that this name is an acronym for the sentiment we express on Rosh Hashana: מלוך על כל העולם — reign over the entire world. 

There is only one Ruler who determines our fate exclusively. It does not depend on the ‘natural’ course of events, but solely by how we maneuver through our challenges and seek His will in all our decisions, with an awareness that despite any choices ‘we make’, it is He alone that powers us. We submit our plans to His rule exclusively. 

After we do our part in exercising choice may we not get caught up in the frenzy of frustration, since we are in His good and secure hands no matter what. 


צבי יהודה טייכמאן