Vayeira 5768

June 23, 2009

7 min read


Vayeira (Genesis 18-22 )

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GOOD MORNING! Recently I received the following email: "My son decided to become Orthodox. I am anti-religious. For me he is dead." Heartbreaking. I thought that perhaps my reply might help each of us deal with our feelings about our loved ones not turning out how we had hoped they would develop.

___"My heart goes out to you. It seems the story of mankind that children end up not like their parents ... and their parents are disappointed and upset. Traditionally, children have been 'dead' to their Jewish parents when they converted to another religion or married a non-Jew, but I can understand how the same emotions can apply for someone anti-religious whose child becomes religious.

___"I know a young man who came from a Reform Jewish background and at 22 started learning about a heritage he knew little about. He found Torah Judaism fascinating and meaningful. When he started learning his Torah heritage, his mother wrote him that she and his father were worried about whether he would identify with being Jewish and they were happy that he was learning.

___"However, when he decided that he believed that there is a God and that he was obligated by a covenant with the Almighty to keep the mitzvot, they were upset. His father asked him to see a psychiatrist. He readily agreed, though he asked his father 'If the psychiatrist certifies me sane, will you accept my decision?' He spoke with the psychiatrist and was sure that his father called the psychiatrist shortly after he left. For 3 days his father didn't mention a word about the psychiatrist or his conclusions.

___"Finally, he asked his father what the psychiatrist said. The father became very thoughtful and introspective. 'He says you are sane. While he disagrees with your decision, he is impressed by your decision-making process, your reasons and how you arrived at your decision.' He then asked his father, 'It seems like something is bothering you. For 3 days you don't mention his report and only tell me after I ask.'

___"His father replied, 'Something the psychiatrist said really did bother me. He told me, "While I disagree with your son's decision, I realize that your son will marry a Jewish woman and have Jewish children; I am not sure that I will be so fortunate to have Jewish grandchildren from my kids." '

___"It has been rough on him all these years. His parents love him very much, but in their hearts they think he is nuts, a fanatic, off the deep end. And it hurts. Every child desires unconditional love and acceptance from his parents. Not enough get it.

___"In my experience, every Jew thinks he is the perfect Jew. Anyone more religious than he is, is a fanatic. Anyone less religious than he is, is a disbeliever. It's worse when it's your own kid.

___"I remember one student from a non-religious background who was studying at Aish HaTorah. His mother came to pull him out of the Yeshiva. He asked her, 'Mom, why are you coming after me? My brother became a Christian. Why aren't you going after him?' His mom replied, 'Everyone knows your brother is crazy, but you should know better!' His brother becoming a Christian was not a challenge to who she was; however, his becoming more observant, was received like a slap in the face and saying, 'What? I'm not religious enough for you?'

___"If it is any consolation to you, unless your son IS a nut case - and there are a very small percentage of people who choose a Torah lifestyle because of psychological problems - you will ultimately have great nachas (pleasure) from your son. It is our Torah which teaches 'Honor your Father and Mother.' Though he may be dead to you, I guarantee you that he is thinking of how he can be a good son and take care of your needs. From him you will have grandchildren who grow up with values and meaning in a happy family. Though he is different in lifestyle, he is still your son and loves you very much.

___"My heart goes out to you. I understand your pain ... and I understand the pain of your son."

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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

___On the third day following Avraham's Bris Mila, the Torah states:

"And the Almighty appeared (to Avraham) in the grove of Mamre." (Genesis 18:1)

___Why does the Torah specify where the Almighty appeared to Avraham?

___The great commentator, Rashi, cites the Midrash that the Almighty appeared in Mamre's grove because Mamre gave Avraham the advice to enter into the covenant with the Almighty and to perform the circumcision.

___Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz comments that from here we see the great merit of giving people good advice. Avraham would have listened to the Almighty's command to be circumcised. However, others advised Avraham not to circumcise himself. When Mamre heard about the matter, he advised Avraham to do it. For this Mamre was greatly rewarded.

___How does one give good advice? First and foremost, you must have the best interest of the person in mind. All advice must be solely for the benefit of the person asking your opinion.

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Advice is seldom welcome;
and those who want it the most
always like it the least.
-- Earl of Chesterfield

With Deep Appreciation to
Robert Steinberg
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