Vayera – Genesis 18:1-22:24 (Nov. 8/9)

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

Vayera – Genesis 18:1-22:24 (Nov. 22/23

This week’s commentary on our Torah portion, Vayera – Genesis 18:1-22:24, comes to us from Rabbi Michael Gilboa, founder of the Chicagoland Center for Conversion to Judaism.  He writes that: “…According to our tradition, Avraham was 48 at the Tower of Babel’s doom, and he was 99 when the events [we read in this week’s portion] took place. In little more than 50 years we see the emergence of two diametrically opposed ways of being human.
Sodom and Gomorrah, though extreme, ought to sound familiar to us. After all, we should love our families. We ought to care most about our neighbors. We should be more concerned with our own city than with people halfway around the world. And yet, this exclusion that is so natural to us, that comes from a place of love for those around us, is condemned by God. In the most striking terms God told Avraham and us that although there will be more than one right answer to the question of being human, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any wrong answers. There is a limit to our experimentation, and Sodom and Gomorrah surpassed that limit when identity and allegiance transformed into callous and cruel exclusion. In the name of those they loved, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah denied the humanity of the outsider, and a mere half-century of this inhumanity was enough for God to shut down the experiment in its entirety. Avraham and his emerging tribe, on the other hand, were marked by radical inclusion. Everyone was welcome in Avraham and Sarah’s tent. Everyone was invited to the table. There was no such thing as a foreigner. Avraham was so dedicated to the power of welcoming that he sat at the entrance of his tent waiting to greet passersby even as he was recovering from his circumcision. He welcomed them wholeheartedly, and through his radical welcoming Avraham furthered his mission of telling the world about God, inviting strangers to learn about their creator over a meal, and transforming outsiders into insiders through the common experience of God’s love. Avraham’s was, and still is, an audacious experiment that could only come from faith in a single God who transcends all tribes and nationalities. It is not easy to keep the tent open, especially as so many of us live in majority cultures trying their own Sodom-like experiments, but our faith in radical welcoming is ultimately a faith in the God of Genesis: a God who cares about all people, loves all nations, and believes in our shared sacred human destiny.” In the Reform movement, this audacious experiment has come to be called “audacious hospitality.”  Like Avraham and Sarah, the walls of our tent are opened wide; we strive to be a welcoming congregation as we join hands together moving forward on our journeys… 

Audacious Hospitality