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  • Rabbi Skorka

Vayera

God´s revelation to Abraham



The name of this parashah is very significant, because Vayera is the passive voice of the verb ´to see´ and so means ‘He revealed himself.’ This refers to God’s self-revelation, and it was so translated by Onkelos to the Aramaic of this parashah, as well as in Genesis 12:7, ’The Lord revealed Himself to Abram’. It is the first time that the Bible mentions such an astonishing expression, the Creator revealing Himself to one of His creatures! Before then it is said that God spoke to different human beings, but here there is something more. It is the first time that the Bible uses this astonishing expression; the Creator discloses something of Himself to one of His creatures!


The second astonishing thing in this narrative is Abraham´s assertiveness. He actually argues with God about the way He is going to punish the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. Abraham insists on the norms of justice and of mercy so that the righteous will not be harmed and that there will be compassion for the wicked (18: 23-32).


The act of arguing with God is not forbidden, but, according to the narrative and conclusion of the book of Job, it is well accepted, even expected, by God. Job was a righteous and devoted character known among the people of the ancient Meddle East (e.g., Ezekiel 14:14). Many tragedies afflicted him and in his pain he demanded an explanation from God. His good friends and companions urged him not to blaspheme by being so challenging. Finally God reveals Himself to Job. God does not explain to Job the reason for his tragedies; they belong to the realm of the divine that is unknowable for human beings. Then God rebuked Job’s friends because their advice not to make demands of God had been incorrect (42:7-9).


God, according to these quotations, expects a dialogical attitude from human beings towards Him. Sometimes, as in the case of Abraham, God gave a clear and direct answer; in other cases the answer was subtle (e.g., Jeremiah 12:1-5), in others we perceive only silence.


One of the more recent demands to heaven was made by Yehuda Leib Magnes, the president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, when the magnitude of the Shoah became known. In his opening address for the university’s 20th academic year, on November 1st 1944, he quoted Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev: “I do not ask, Lord of the World... to know why I suffer, but only this: Do I suffer for Thy sake?”


Despite of the frequent silences of God, or His typically elusive answers, the continuous challenge is always to question the Creator. This way of relating to God dignifies our existence.


Shabbat Shalom!

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