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Vayeira 5767

Vayeira (Genesis 18-22 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! My friend, Sunny Goldstein, is named after his grandfather. While that is not unusual, the rest of the story is. One hundred and sixteen years ago, Sunny's grandfather left his wife, three year old daughter and six month old son to leave cold and blustery New York to ostensibly head for California for a better climate and better living conditions for the family. The plan was to find a way to support the family and then send for the family to join him. Only one problem. He was never heard from again.

As Sunny grew up there was a split family opinion. All of the women maintained that his grandfather had abandoned the family, remarried and had a new family. His father maintained that something must have happened to him and always was looking to prove that he hadn't abandoned his family. When Sunny started to work and his travels took him to California, his father always asked, "Please, see if you can find your grandfather." But the task was too daunting ... there are a lot of cemeteries in California.

When Sunny was nearing his 80th birthday a fourth cousin asked to interview him for a family genealogy. When she asked about his grandfather, Sunny told her the story and apologized that he didn't have more information. His cousin told him, "Look, if you can think of anything else, let me know. I love solving these mysteries!" When they hung up, Sunny put forth a little prayer that he often prayed: "Please God, help me fulfill my father's request and find out what happened to my grandfather. Thank you."

That night Sunny had a dream. He woke up in the morning and called his cousin. "I have no idea what it means, but one word kept coming to me over and over all night long. 'Oddfellows.' I have no idea what it means." The cousin thanked him and hung up.

One month later the cousin calls all excited! "I found your grandfather's death certificate. He died of pneumonia shortly after arriving in California. He's in the Oddfellows cemetery ... 15 minutes from your home in San Diego!" Sunny got the address and immediately drove to the cemetery and sought out the section, row and plot. And there, engraved in stone, was the proof his father was seeking all of those years.

There, engraved on the tombstone below the name of Samuel Goldstein, were the words: "Devoted Husband. Loving Father." The mystery was solved. He had not abandoned the family!

Since his grandfather was a member of the Oddfellows (a fraternal club started in the 1800's by two men who gave generously of their riches to the poor and were thus considered by their acquaintances as "oddfellows"), they visited him in the hospital, buried him in their cemetery and erected his tombstone according to his deathbed instructions.

Sunny could not find out more information because the Oddfellows records were destroyed in the Los Angeles earthquake a few years ago. Why didn't his grandfather or the Oddfellows contact his wife? Maybe they tried. Perhaps they wrote and the letter was lost. Perhaps the address had changed. In 1891 communication was not easy or as assured as today.

While I intended to use the story as a "springboard" to discuss how one gets his prayers answered, it seems my "springboard" reaches almost to the end of the "pool." Here are 5 Steps to Genuine Prayer:

  1. Feel God's presence. You are talking to a loving, all-powerful Being who wants to give you everything that's good. All over the world God is answering prayers because He loves His children.

  2. Expect results. God has a track record. If you don't really believe God can and will help you, you're not really praying.

    Pay attention to what God is teaching you. Everything that happens is for your good. If you are in need, realize God is teaching you something. If you trust Him, you will hear what He is telling you.

  3. Get in touch with what you're really after. Know your bottom line. You're talking to the awesome Creator, so don't ask for nonsense. He wants you to grow up.

  4. Being serious about what you're praying for means that you're doing everything you can to make it happen. God will lend a hand only when you put in the effort. He'll never take away your independence because that's his ultimate gift to you.

For more on "Getting Your Prayers Answered " go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

Avraham, on the third day after his brit mila, sits outside his tent looking for guests to extend his hospitality. While talking with the Almighty, he sees three visitors (actually angels of the Almighty). Avraham interrupts his conversation with the Almighty to invite them to a meal. One angel informs him that in a year's time, Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son, Yitzhak (Isaac).

God tells Avraham that He is going to destroy Sodom because of its absolute evil (the city is the source of the word sodomy). Avraham argues with God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people in Sodom. Avraham loses for the lack of a quorum. Lot (Avraham's nephew) escapes the destruction with his two daughters.

Other incidents: Avimelech, King of the Philistines, wants to marry Sarah (Avraham's wife), the birth of Yitzhak, the eviction of Hagar (Avraham's concubine) and Ishmael. Avimelech and Avraham make a treaty at Beersheva. Avraham is commanded to take up his son, Isaac, as an offering "on one of the mountains" (Akeidat Yitzhak). Lastly, the announcement of the birth of Rivka (Rebecca), the future wife of Yitzhak.

Do you want to know the reward for listening to the command of the Almighty? This is what the Almighty told Avraham:

"... I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

""And Avraham rose up early in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water and gave it to Hagar. He placed them on her shoulder along with the child and sent her away." (Genesis 21:14)

Why does the Torah tell us that Avraham "rose up early in the morning"?

The Torah utilizes the phrase "rose up early in the morning" to tell us that Avraham was so anxious to fulfill the will of the Almighty that he did it at the earliest possible opportunity. What is particularly important to note is that Avraham was anxious to speedily fulfill the Almighty's will even though he himself did not want to send away Hagar. However, the Almighty agreed with Sarah that Yishmael (Ishmael) would be a negative influence on Yitzchok (Isaac) and therefore had to be sent away. In spite of his own feelings and conclusions Avraham quickly took action to fulfill the wishes of the Almighty.

Sending away Yishmael was the exact opposite behavior that would have been consistent with Avraham's attribute of lovingkindness. He could have procrastinated and pushed off this most painful of actions. His focus was not on whether he personally enjoyed what he did, but on doing what was right in the Almighty's eyes. This self-discipline allowed him to do all he could for his guests and wait on them even when he was ill.

Our lesson: Don't focus on your feelings. Rather, ask yourself, "What is the proper thing to do right now?"


A friend of mine desperately needs financial help for
radiation and chemo therapy. Every dollar you donate will go to help save
his life. Donate online at or send your check to:

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Thank you!

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