Lessons from Lot’s Daughters

Lessons from Lot’s Daughters

Oct 22, 2021 By Abby Eisenberg | Commentary | Vayera

Parashat Vayera is the fourth Torah portion after Simhat Torah, the celebration of our annual Torah reading cycle and the culmination of the fall holidays. As we begin the new year, we also begin anew our exploration of ancestral family dynamics. Arguably one of the most famous parent-child scenes in all of literature can be found in Vayera: that of Abraham bringing Isaac to offer him as sacrifice. The parashah also contains another version of child sacrifice when Lot, Abraham’s nephew, subjects his unnamed daughters to assault and danger. From the tragedy of Jephthah’s daughter to the boldness of the daughters of Zelofehad, relationships between fathers and daughters in Tanakh are both deeply troubling and inspiring. The story of Lot and his daughters is certainly the former, and, perhaps surprisingly, potentially the latter.

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Running Far, Drawing Near

Running Far, Drawing Near

Nov 6, 2020 By Naomi Kalish | Commentary | Vayera

“Shalom, shalom to the one who is far away and to the one who is close.” Drawn from the Yom Kippur haftarah, the editors of Mahzor Lev Shalem used these words to open the high holiday prayer book. This year the words held a special poignancy, as each of us was simultaneously “the one who is far away” and “the one who is close.”

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The Gravity of Laughter

The Gravity of Laughter

Nov 16, 2019 By Ariella Rosen | Commentary | Vayera

Parashat Vayera opens with a flurry of action. Yet several of the narrative’s most significant moments are driven not by action, but by reaction.

After Abraham runs to welcome the three wandering strangers he sees from the entrance to his tent, inviting them to bathe, rest, and feast, the action slows, opening space for a story to play out in the realm of emotions. The strangers share the news that in one year’s time, Sarah will give birth to a son, ending the couple’s decades-long wait to fulfill their destiny as the parents of a nation.

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The Legacy of Sodom

The Legacy of Sodom

Oct 26, 2018 By Steven Philp | Commentary | Vayera

Following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, Lot and his two daughters flee to the mountains above Zoar. They are stricken with fear, having witnessed the devastation of the two cities. They grieve the dead, a vast number that includes Lot’s wife, the mother of the two women, who—having paused to look back toward Sodom—was turned into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:23–26). It is necessary to understand the emotional frame within which they are operating, as it underlies the following narrative.

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Women of Faith

Women of Faith

Nov 3, 2017 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Vayera

Abraham passed God’s litmus test of faith. God commands Abraham to take his beloved son Isaac to the land of Moriah and kill him. Faithful Abraham does not hesitate. Genesis 22 may be the most loved and hated story in the Torah by every reader, no matter what their faith. Certainly, generations of Jews have struggled to make sense of this story, and of the father and God it portrays. 

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Tears that Unveil

Tears that Unveil

Nov 18, 2016 By Matthew Goldstone | Commentary | Vayera

Deep down, deep down inside, the eye would be destined not to see but to weep. For at the very moment they veil sight, tears would unveil what is proper to the eye.

—Jacques Derrida, Memoirs of the Blind (126)

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Itzik’s Journey

Itzik’s Journey

Nov 18, 2016 By David G. Roskies | Commentary | Vayera

He was our Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas: a Yiddish troubadour and hard-drinking lyric poet who wrote in regular rhymes and rhythms about the lives and unrequited loves of the downtrodden. His name was Itzik Manger, and the Bible was the book he loved most in the world, especially those parts that told an inside, personal story.

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The Person You Are Now

The Person You Are Now

Oct 23, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayera

“Innocent until proven guilty” approximates God’s judgment of Ishmael in the midrash above.

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Submitting to a Higher Ideal

Submitting to a Higher Ideal

Oct 30, 1993 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayera

Circumcision is the oldest of Jewish rituals and still going strong. In his 90th year Abraham was instructed by God to “circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days (Gen. 17:11-12).” Accordingly, when Isaac was born ten years later, Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day (Gen. 21:4).

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Holding Up Heaven (In Memory of Nahshon Waxman)

Holding Up Heaven (In Memory of Nahshon Waxman)

Oct 22, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayera

We turn to this week’s Parasha numbed by the brutal kidnapping and murder of Corporal Nahshon Waxman just outside of Jerusalem, two miles from his home. Terrorism again shocks us with its power to outrage, disrupt and paralyze civilized society. The weapon of the savage few to force their will on the decent majority, terrorism reminds us of just how easy it is to wreak havoc on modern urban life. In contrast to Abraham’s inquiry about the minimum number of good people necessary to save Sodom, we find ourselves asking how few terrorists does it take to bring a modern city or country to its knees?

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