Below is a collection of Parashat Vayera resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: If you have two different mitzvot to do at the same time, which one should you do first? What if one is bein adam l’makom (a mitzvah between man and God) and one is bein adam l’chaveiro (a mitzvah between man and his fellow)? What takes priority? Why? Did you ever experience such a conflict? How did you resolve it?
At the beginning of Parashat Vayera, God “appears” to Abraham, but nothing is written about what is said. Then, Abraham sees visitors and goes running to them. The Rabbis use this example to illustrate the principle that “hospitality to a stranger is more important than receiving the Divine Presence.”
Look inside the text (Bereshit 18: 1-2):
וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה’ בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא ישֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם – God appeared to him in Alonei Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot.
וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ אָרְצָה – Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground.
Question #2: In last week’s parasha, we posed a question about lying in order to save your life. In this week’s parasha, we consider another angle of lying: is it OK to lie in order to “keep the peace” and not hurt someone’s feelings? Is telling only part of the story considered a lie? Has this ever happened to you?
When Sarah overhears that she will have a child she laughs and thinks that she and her husband are too old. But, when God reports this to Abraham, He says, “Why did Sarah laugh saying, I am too old?” not including that she mentioned Abraham also being too old. Rashi explains that God did this for the sake of peace.
Look inside the text (Bereshit 18: 12-13) – Sarah learns that she and Abraham will soon be parents in their old age –
וַתִּצְחַק שָׂרָה בְּקִרְבָּהּ לֵאמֹר אַחֲרֵי בְלֹתִי הָיְתָה לִּי עֶדְנָה וַאדֹנִי זָקֵן – And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Now that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment—with my husband so old?”
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָֹה אֶל אַבְרָהָם לָמָּה זֶּה צָחֲקָה שָׂרָה לֵאמֹר הַאַף אֻמְנָם אֵלֵד וַאֲנִי זָקַנְתִּי – Then God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying ‘How in truth can I have a child when I am so old?”
Question #3: Lot is advised to flee the city of Sodom in advance of its destruction. He tries to encourage his family members to join, but most don’t pay much attention to his warning. Should Lot have at least told his neighbors, or announced to the townspeople, that something terrible was about to happen, and give some the opportunity to save themselves? If you knew that a fire had just broken out, would you not warn your neighbors to get out of harm’s way? If you found out about an opportunity to make a large sum of money, would you tell others about it or keep it a secret?
Question #4: After an uncomfortable incident with Avimelekh (a Philistine king), the king offers to establish a treaty with Abraham. Abraham gently rebukes Avimelekh but then signs the treaty. Is it appropriate to hold a grudge and not allow someone the opportunity to make amends? Is it appropriate to “forgive and forget” and ignore wrongs that were done previously? What are the disadvantages of each approach? Is one approach “more correct” than the other?
LESSON PLANS AND ARTICLES
From the Classics: ‘God of Our Ancestors’ – Biological Ancestry and Spiritual Roots in the Prayers of Converts – This article from The Lookstein Center’s journal, Jewish Educational Leadership, uses the example of Abraham to explore the role of converts in Judaism and Jewish Prayer.
Parashat Vayera: Avraham Pleads the Cause – This article analyzes the relationship between Abraham and God.
And Sarah Laughed… – This article discusses the deeper meaning behind Sarah’s laughter when she learns she will become pregnant in her old age.