Our view of the Galile

Friday, October 22, 2010

Parshat Vayeira- Walk This Way

Insights and Inspiration
 from the
 Holy Land

From Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
 “Your friend in Karmiel”
October 22nd 2010 -Volume I, Issue 4– 14th of Cheshvan 5771
Parshat Vayeira

Walk  this way

One of my newly found pleasures in life since moving to Israel, is my new morning ritual. In the States our mornings were always kind of hectic. Rush everyone out of bed, quickly throw on clothing, Uh Oh Mommy where’s my socks? Daddy you have to sign this homework where did you put it? Quickly! Carpools coming. What should I take for Lunch? Hurry up they’re waiting outside…I still can’t find my socks. I don’t like tuna fish again. What should I have for snack? How come we never have good snacks? They’re honking already! Get Out, Get out.. whew… they’re gone. I don’t miss carpool.

 Here in Israel it’s been a little different. We still are waking up late, they still don’t know where they’re socks are nor do they like tuna or the snacks they are getting(although Bamba and kosher Doritos are getting good reviews). All of that is still the same. What is different for me though, is that my children now walk to school; which is really nice. Each leaves with a   group of their friends, and I  am left alone with my most cherished opportunity to walk hand in hand with my three year old Elka to her Gan (kindergarden).That is truly heaven and one of the most wonderful moments and rituals of my day.

Elka, you see is a great walking partner. Each day I marvel at how quickly she is adapting to Hebrew and her new surroundings. She is also, incidentally a tour guide in the making.

“Look Abba (two months ago I was Daddy) there is a Chatul (cat). A Chatul drinks Chalav (milk)”.

There is my chaverah(friend), Tilla with her Savta(grandmother) going on the Autoboose( bus).
 And of course finally the one she never fails to mention.

 “Hey, Abba there is a Makolet(grocery)- they sell Shoko(chocolate milk in little plastic bags), Weel Yu Bai me a Shoko( her English now starts to sound like Heberew) Abba? I Ohev (love) Shoko”. As if I couldn’t figure that out by now. But how can I say no to a face like that. So we walk to and from Gan each day relishing in the wonder of our new home as we sip our Shoko and hope this time and age could last forever.

Although I’m sure that this special Parent/Child Shoko moment is universal. This week’s Torah portion suggests that there is something unique about the Jewish Parent/Child relationship that is not shared by other nations. In fact if you look carefully enough the entire Parsha is a contrast between our forefather Avraham’s relationship with his children and everyone else.

The Parsha begins with three angels coming to visit Avraham. He interrupts his discussion with God to go greet them. After he begs them to stay over for dinner he immediately starts to get it ready. The Torah tells us how he asks his wife to make fresh cakes for them, how he personally runs out to pick the choice calf for dinner to be slaughtered and finally how he goes to the young lad, who Rashi tells us was his son Yishmael, and asks him to prepare the meat. As a child in school they always impressed upon me how amazing this was that Avraham did all this at the age of 99, only three days after his circumcision. As an adult I realized that even more amazing than Avraham doing all this, was that the fact that Yishmael his 13 year old teenage son who also had his circumcision jumped up and the Torah even goes out of its way to tell us “hurried to do it”. To me that is truly unbelievable… that Avraham himself could and would run and do it is somewhat impressive but expected. But that he got his teenage son to be just as excited?! This would be amazing even if he was not sick and  lying down, but that he would get up with the same enthusiasm and rush to serve his father’s guests. That is some pretty remarkable parenting skills! 

Lest you think that I am making a big deal out of this. If you follow the text you can see that Hashem seems to as well. Just a few verses later when Hashem continues his conversation with Avraham about the destruction of Sodom, Hashem says
“Shall I hide from Avraham that which I must do. Avraham will be a great nation…”

The Torah then concludes this sentence and tells us what the key impressive thing to God about Avraham is. No, it is not that at a young age he smashed his father’s idols and went against the common culture. Nor is it that he was willing to be thrown into a fiery furnace rather then renouncing his faith in Hashem. It wasn’t that he taught the entire world monotheism, that he left his home to follow God’s law or that he was the greatest symbol of hospitality and kindness in the history of mankind. What was it that impressed Hashem?
“Because I know that he commands his children and household after him to follow the pathways of Hashem to do charity and justice...”
What makes this statement even more bizarre is that Avraham at that time only had one son. He was already a teenager. Yet out of all Abraham’s accomplishments it is that which makes him special and worthy in the eyes of God.

If you follow the rest of the Parsha you will find the opposite extreme by Lot whose wife and family do not share his values. We find that he is willing to sacrifice them for the strangers in his warped sense of kindness that certainly did not begin at home. We are also told about Hagar as she and Yishmael are thrown out of the house and are wandering in the desert on the brink of death dying from thirst. The Torah vividly describes how she abandons him so as not to see him die, rather then to be with him in his last moments. If we contrast that with the conclusion of the Parsha and Avraham as he walks up the mountain to sacrifice Yitzchak as per Hashems command, we find the opposite occurs. Avraham says Hineini- I am here for you my son. Whether he will live or die is in the hands and decision of God. But Avraham the ultimate father will use even what he thought would be this last teaching moment to hold his son’s hand and walk together with him. Hineini.

As I walk with Elka I look out at these same streets where Jews since the time of Avraham and Yitzchak have walked together with their children, I see other parents doing the same thing that I am; walking each morning, drinking shoko, talking, bonding, teaching. This is a country that is truly dedicated to its children, more than anywhere else I have ever seen. It’s a country and a lifestyle as wel,l that for many is one of sacrifice. For some it is living in a more dangerous part of the world in order to live in Eretz Yisrael. For others it is observing Shabbos, Kashrut, or hosting guests and following the Mitzvos of Hashem despite the challenges that some time come with it. And for many it is certainly giving up much of the materialism and comforts the western world has. Yet regardless of what the sacrifice is, each parent is with their child and guiding them and passing on the message and values for which we are meant to be living. Hineini. It is that walk of Avraham.We are here with you. We walk together. And our Father above looks down and walks with us as well.

Have a truly restful Shabbos,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz


  1. Wonderful Blog Rabbi. Kudos to you. Maybe you could set up a chat as well.
    Estelle Oren