Dear Rabbi Hackenbroch, Gila, Rabbi Wayland, Suzanne, Chazan Rome, family And friends, Shabbat Shalom!
In this week's Sedrah of Vayerah, Avraham pleads before G-d for the righteous people living in the wicked cities of Sedom and Amorah to be saved.
Perhaps, he asks, there might be fifty righteous citizens? Would that be enough to counteract the wickedness of the thousands of others living there?
Perhaps if there were forty-five, forty, even only ten?
The questions are: Why should Avraham care?
Why should Sedom and Amorah, the two wicked cities, be saved by the actions of a handful of good people?
It was of course a test for Avraham, one of the ten tests of faith, given to him by G-d. This test was for Divine justice to be carried out on individuals according to their merit, and not for everyone to be punished together.
There was more to Avraham. He was concerned for all human beings, be they Jewish or not. The concept of concern for non-Jews also appears in other places in the Tanach.
The Book of Jonah deals with G-d's dealings with gentiles, the repentance of the King and people of Nineveh. In the main story of this book, G-d, seeing that they turned from their wicked ways, holds back His punishment on the city and its inhabitants. Non-Jews who are good, kind and G-d fearing earn His blessings.
We should care for all of our fellow citizens, our country and our World, like our father Avraham did. We can pray for non-Jews, for they like us are the children of one G-d. We should be involved in Tikkun Olam, Mending the World.
In the month of Elul, when we say Slichot leading up to Yom Kippur, we read from the Book of Jonah. This is because of its theme of repentance. At the beginning of this week's Sedrah, Avraham is sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day having just undergone a painful operation. G-d appears to him, after which, Avraham lifts his eyes and sees three men to whom he says "My Lord, if I have found favour in your eyes, please don't go away." Who is Avraham speaking to?
quoting a Midrash gives two explanations.
According to one understanding, Avraham is speaking to the leader of the men, and is asking him and his fellow travellers to stay and receive hospitality. The second explanation is that Avraham is not addressing any of the men, but is speaking directly to G-d, whose presence has come to visit him as he is going through pain after his operation. According to the second explanation Avraham is saying to G-d, "Wait a minute until I have looked after the needs of the visitors."
The Talmud teaches us that "Receiving guests is greater than greeting the Divine Presence", and that looking after the needs of G-d's children when they need help takes priority. Our sages relate how Avraham would feed hungry travellers who came his way. When they wished to repay him for his kindness he would ask only for one thing, that they should say a blessing in thanksgiving to G-d.
Once an elderly gentleman who was seventy years old was welcomed at Avraham's table. When he finished his meal the old man refused to offer any blessing of thanks as he was a committed idol worshipper. Angered by his behaviour Avraham drove the man out of his house.
G-d appeared to Avraham and said "I have tolerated that man's idol worship for seventy years, could you not even tolerate him for five minutes?"
The last section of this week's sedra describes Avraham's tenth trial known as the Binding of Isaac.
The "Akedah" has become part of our daily morning service and is even given as the reason for choosing a shofar, the ram's horn, to blow on Rosh Hashana. This is to remind us of the ram offered by Avraham instead of Yitzchak.
was willing to give to G-d the one thing most precious to him, his favourite son Yitzchak. At the last moment an angel intervenes. "Giving up things dearest to us is indeed called a sacrifice", something which Avraham was prepared to do.
My Hebrew name is Chava. Chava was the first woman created by G-d for Adam as a companion "because it is not good for a man to be alone". The Torah explains that Chava means "Am Kol Chai" Mother of all humans and animals. The name is very appropriate for me because I love animals. One of my ambitions in life is to work with animals and help them when I am older.
I am currently in my second year at JFS. I'm looking forward to learning more about Jewish history and tradition. I am hoping to visit Israel for the first time, with school next year. My sister Jessica had her Batmitzvah two years ago on Shabbat Parashat Lech Lecha, which was read last week. I see today as a continuation of her celebrations. Thank-you Jessica, for guiding me with your experience through this special time in my life. I would like to say thank-you to Mrs Nurith Cohen for helping me with my D'var Torah. I would also like to thank my amazing parents for their love and support and everything they have done for me. I would also like to thank everyone for coming here today to celebrate my Batmitzvah with me especially my family from Manchester.
Thank you all for listening, Shabbat Shalom