Shabbat Vayera 5784

Last week, we learned about the entourage that accompanied Avram and Sarai as they made their way toward the Promised Land. Commenting on the phrase about that entourage, “and the persons they had acquired in Haran” (Genesis 12:5), Rashi described these people–literally nefesh, “souls,” as the newest converts to the belief in one God. “[These were] the souls which he had brought under the sheltering wings of the Shekhinah. Avraham converted the men, and Sarah converted the women; Scripture accounts it to them as if they made them” (Rashi ad. loc.).

This week, our Founding Couple of Outreach are at it again, displaying comprehensive hospitality to three passersby in the heat of the day. Twice in the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, we read the phrase petah haohel, “the entrance of the tent.”

Fittingly, when the Rabbinical Assembly wrote our movement’s rabbinic guide to conversion, we named it Petah Haohel. Rabbi Jonathan Lubliner, the guide’s author, quoted our parshah in its opening paragraph:

“Midrash teaches that Abraham often sat at the entrance to his tent, the better to observe from afar weary travelers in need of hospitality. Having welcomed the wayfarers with food and drink, our founding matriarch and patriarch used the opportunity to introduce strangers to the monotheistic faith they pioneered by urging them to acknowledge God’s gracious beneficence. Said they: “Thank, praise, and bless the One who spoke and the world came into being” (Sotah 10b). For these progenitors of the Jewish people, the path to helping others discover the Divine invariably began at the entrance of their tent. In our day it is the rabbi who sits at the entrance to the tent of Jewish community.”

Rabbi Lubliner’s words address two key components of Jewish identity–faith and community. I’ve been thinking a great deal about both of these markers of identity in the last few weeks, especially this past week, when I served on a Bet Din to welcome six new Jews into the fold. On Shabbat morning, I’ll reflect on the parshah, our experience at the mikveh, and the definition of the Jewish tent in this moment of crisis.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, and Shalom ‘al Yisrael,

Rabbi David Wise

Candle lighting: 5:31 PM
Torah Reading: Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah: II Kings 4:1-37