• Gabbai

Vayera – Responding to Crises

The Mishna in Avot teaches us that Abraham was tested with 10 ordeals. Those ranged from initial challenges to his monotheistic faith coming from the pagan society in which he lived, all the way to the binding of Isaac which appears at the end of this week’s Parsha. In between he had to deal with uprooting his household and relocating to a new region. He endured the pain of childlessness, he dealt with the privations of famine, the abduction of his wife Sarah; He found himself caught in the middle of wars between local tribes, as well as strife and rivalry within his household and more.

These ordeals tested Abraham’s resolve in his relationship with the Almighty. More than that, however, the struggles fueled his development of character. Abraham was forced to flex his mental and spiritual muscles time and again, which strengthened those attributes and reinforced his resilience and resolve, forming the foundation for a future nation who would follow in his path.

What was special about Abraham was not his trials, however. Everybody goes through ordeals and challenges. Nobody is given a pass in this life. The true test is whether we respond to these challenges and how we respond. Abraham was recovering from a painful procedure at an advanced age. He was not expected to continue his famed practice of hospitality while he was recovering. But he would not let an opportunity to extend his kindness pass. He invited the three travelers into his home, making them welcome and providing refreshments and respite from the heat. Abraham could have similarly turned a blind eye to the fate of Sodom and its sister cities. He knew that Lot would be extricated before the cities were overturned. He really had no stake in Sodom. But he spared no effort to seek merit for Sodom and ameliorate its plight. His sensitivity to the suffering of others, his determination to find the good in the other, his response to the ordeals, set him apart from everyone around him.

Life throws many trials at us, both sm