Vayera: Divine Communication

Knowing When to Argue

Torah portion Vayera features episodes of high drama and emotion, including the destruction of Sodom and the binding of Isaac. God tells Abraham that he is going to destroy the city of Sodom because it is filled with sinners. Abraham boldly argues with God and urges Him to reconsider: “Will you even destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:3) After a negotiation, God agrees to spare Sodom if there are ten righteous men in the city (there aren’t).

Later in this parsha, God tells Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac and bring him up to Mount Moriah as a burnt offering (Gen. 22:2.) Without a word of complaint or objection, Abraham wakes up early in the morning, saddles up his donkey, and takes Isaac to the mountaintop where he binds him on the altar – before God tells him not to raise his hand against the boy.

Why does Abraham argue so vehemently on behalf of the sinners of Sodom, but utter not a peep when God tells him to sacrifice his own son? Rabbi Tzvi Freeman suggests taking a closer look at the way God speaks to Abraham in each episode. Before destroying Sodom, God tells Abraham of His plan, and Abraham understands instinctively that God wants him to argue against it. Otherwise, there is no reason for God to tell him about it! Regarding Isaac, God’s tone is different. He pleads with Abraham: “Please take your son….” Abraham understands that this is a command, not a conversation starter.

Rabbi Freeman concludes, “It’s the same with every Jew. We have a deep relationship with God. We aren’t just robots. There are times – the times of prayer – when we argue with God concerning the way He runs the world. And then there are times when we need to just accept. How do we know which path is appropriate in any given situation? We know, when we are in tune with our neshama (soul) deep inside – and the neshama is in tune with God above.” May we, like Abraham, form a deep connection with our own soul, and with the Creator of all souls.

Image: The Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio, 1602




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