Ben Schneider - Dvar Torah
My Torah portion, Vayeira, comes from the book of B'reishit. It comes just after Abraham's circumcision. He was sitting outside his tent, and lifted his eyes and saw three men standing there. He invited them in and offered them a fine meal. One of the men said that Sarah would have a son. God told Abraham that he would demolish the cities of Sodom and G'morrah and Abraham stood before God asking, "Will you ruin the righteous along with the wicked? Perhaps there are 50 good people in the city. Isn't it wicked to slay the righteous?" God said, "If there are 50 righteous I will forgive the city." Abraham asks, "what if there are only 40 righteous? Or 30 or 20 or 10?" God responded, "I shall not destroy the city if there are 10 righteous people."
The part of my portion that I would like to focus on is the Akeidah - the binding of Isaac, which we read this morning.
Abraham had a powerful relationship with God which made him very trusting of God. He also had faith in God. Now God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. This was the son he had waited for so long. How do you think he felt? [PAUSE]
I think that Abraham must have felt that the whole thing was unreal and he hoped that somehow he would not have had to go through with it. This might have been the test. That he had enough faith. It was testing Abraham and his trust to see if he could be the leader of the Jewish people.
If I was in the same situation, I would not have slain my son. But then you are disobeying God. It made me pay attention to the language of my portion. Twice in my portion people look up and see something. The first was Hagar who looks up and sees a well. Was the well there all along? And she didn't notice it? Or did it miraculously appear?
Then Abraham looks up and he sees a ram. Was it there all along or did it just miraculously appear?
It's hard to believe in miracles - they are not normal. Or maybe there are different types of miracles. There are those that happen in front of you and you can touch them and see them, like Abraham getting called by the angel, or there are those that you just hear about and they sound miraculous, like Sarah hearing that she would have a baby. I believe in the second kind for sure and to some extent I kind of believe in the first.
Even if we believe in miracles, we shouldn't rely on them happening. For example, if you are hungry, instead of focusing on the hunger and expecting food to miraculously appear, you could go out and plant and harvest a crop. So going back to Abraham, I wish that when he was told that he had to sacrifice Isaac, that he had done the same thing that he had when he heard about the destruction of the cities of Sodom and G'morrah. He protested then. But he didn't protest over Isaac.
In the lead up to my bar mitzvah my faith and ability to cope were tested by the preparation for the barmy and also starting Boarding School. I saw that I could cope and adapt and embrace change, and also manage big and demanding challenges. Now that I am becoming a bar mitzvah, and trusting in life’s process, I do believe that there can be Miracles, but you also can’t rely that they will solve your problems. Just as Abraham and Hagar needed to look up, I want to always look up and see what opportunities there are.
David is widely known for his success in battle against Goliath. Goliath was a tall, strong, Philistine warrior, who was a famous fighter all around. Although David was much smaller and weaker, he was winning the fight because he was clever, and his cleverness led him to success.
David is a very traditional name, that is being used all over the world. My great-grandfather was a man of faith and was born in Yemen and later made Aliya to Israel. He was also called David and I got my name from him. It is like carrying the tradition forward.
David in the bible and myself are different characters. By the time the David in the bible was old, he was a very successful human being at the end of his lifetime. In contrast to that I have not very much to show because I am much younger.
I think tradition is important. Only if we carry tradition forward it will stay alive. All our traditions, such as circumcision and many holidays, are based on the covenant between Abraham and God and all the other events, more than a thousand years ago.
Even if you presumably appear small and weak, or you feel yourself small and weak, you can do miracles if you know that G-d is on your side you feel brave, courageous, and have trust in yourself such as David did.