Retreat ‘Em Right: Vayera 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do we know when we’ve asked as much as we can from someone else? How do we cope when that isn’t enough?

After Abraham convinces God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if 10 good people can be found, both God and Abraham walk away, with the cities’ future in the balance:

The Pitch: “When the Lord had finished speaking to Abraham, He departed; and Abraham returned to his place.” – Genesis 18:33

Swing #1: “‘Abraham went back to his place’ can also be understood to mean that he went back to his ways, to his custom. And what custom is that? To defend the underdog, to look out for the needy and help those in trouble, even if they are not the most righteous of people. Abraham refused to become disillusioned in defeat.” – Rabbi Yossy Goldman, From Where I Stand: Life Messages From the Weekly Torah Reading

Swing #2: “The Yahwist’s ability deftly to describe the Lord’s ease in moving around the world of people and places is unmatched in scripture. ‘The Lord went his way’ is reminiscent of Yahweh’s walk in the garden in the cool of the evening (Genesis 3:8), or of Yahweh smelling the pleasing odor of Noah’s sacrifice (8:21). This comfortable God of here below has an awesome side, though. The Yahwist often locates that side above, from where the Lord will soon rain sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah.” – W. Sibley Towner, Genesis

Swing #3: “Abraham remained in a waiting posture. He had not given up hope to expect further prophetic insights until it became clear to him that God’s presence had departed.” – Sforno

Late-Inning Questions: Do you agree that Abraham walks away from bargaining with God disappointed? Would Abraham have been successful if he had bargained God down to, say, five good people? Why do some victories feel like defeats and some setbacks feel like triumphs?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: An information session for Camp Ramah Canada will take place at the Community Religious School (at Congregation Shir Shalom) on Sunday, November 20th, at 11:30am. Learn about all the great things Ramah has to offer!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of victories, while I wasn’t rooting for the Astros to win the World Series, I must admit that they were worthy champions (assuming they were following the rules this time). And it was great to see the World Series winners celebrate in front of their home fans for the first time in nine years.

Shabbat Shalom!