“Parsha and Purpose” – Vayera 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Yitzchak, Yishmael and the Roots of the Abraham Accords”

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“Yitzchak, Yishmael and the Roots of the Abraham Accords”

High-profile normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

Serious reports about dramatic developments in relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and Oman. 

What is going on in the Middle East?!

After years of underground contacts, relationships are emerging in full view of the entire world between the descendants of Yitzchak and descendants of Yishmael – all of us the grandchildren of Avraham, Av Hamon Goyim, the “father of many nations” Genesis 17:4

This breathtaking confluence of events certainly has far-reaching political ramifications, but I would like to highlight what I see as a much more significant aspect of it: the glimpse that this week’s parsha, Vayera, provides into this potential rapprochement between the children of Avraham after millennia of enmity.

The parsha contains some truly fascinating parallel narratives in the lives of Yitzchak and Yishmael as they relate to their father, Avraham.

Professor Uriel Simon, world renowned Torah scholar and former long-time head of the Bible Department at Bar Ilan University, reflects on the Torah’s juxtaposition of the two sons’ sacrificial experiences: Geirush Yishmael – the Expulsion of Ishmael – and Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac.

The two events’ similarities are alluded to in their parallel language and potential consequences: 

  1. God specifically directs Avraham to carry out both acts.
  2. In both instances, Avraham wakes up early in the morning to escort them.
  3. There is a foreshadowing to the probable death of his sons.
  4. The rescue of the sons comes in the flash of a moment by an angel, an emissary of God.
  5. In the aftermath of these traumatic events, God promises Avraham that both Yishmael and Yitzchak will become great nations.
  6. And inevitably, the trauma that each son experienced deeply affected their respective relationships with their father.

But when Avraham passes away, both Yitzchak and Yishmael summon the inner strength to come together to bury him. Genesis 25:9

Similarly, in light of the recent happenings in the Middle East, we are now witnessing for the first time in this region a growing formal recognition of the relationship between descendants of Yishmael and the descendants of Yitzchak, aptly named the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.

B’ezrat Hashem – Inshallah – may we merit to live in a time in which the sacrifices of Avraham’s children – the descendants of Yitzchak and the descendants of Yishmael – can be overcome, as their namesakes did.

Perhaps together, we can help usher in the final redemption process, a process that begins in Parshat Vayera.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Riskin

Shabbat Shalom: Vayera (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “For now I know that you are a God-fearing man, seeing that you have not withheld your only son from Me.” (Gen. 22:12) The akeda (“binding’ of Isaac) serves as a model for one of the most important questions in contemporary …

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Dvir with donkey thumbnail

“Parsha and Purpose”

Insights from Rabbi Kenneth Brander into Torah and Contemporary Life

Parshat Vayera 5780

Sources cited

  • Genesis 19:27
  • Exodus 4:20
  • Exodus 23:1 – 24:25
  • Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 31
Bezalel Safra photographed by Rony Nathan

Parshat Vayera: What could be greater than meeting Hashem Himself? Do you greet your neighbor warmly when you meet him or her? Do you greet the security guard at the shopping mall without being prompted to do so? Our forefather Abraham treated even the lowliest of people with respect, even though he had more than enough reason …

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Shabbat Shalom: Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin    Efrat, Israel – One of the most difficult stories of the Bible – and certainly the complex highlight of Vayera – is the “binding” (and near slaughter) of Isaac, but the tale preceding it may legitimately be called the “binding” (near death) of Ishmael. This …

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Rabbanit Nomi Berman

Parashat Vayera: Arguing from a Place of Faith Abraham’s conversation and his attempt at advocating on behalf of Sdom are a milestone in the annals of the Jewish people. “Will the Judge of the entire earth not perform justice?” Generations of Abraham’s descendants will ponder this question. by Rabbanit Nomi Berman, Rosh Beit MidrashMaria and …

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Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Vayera (Genesis 18:1 – 22: 24) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “Take your son, your only son, the one whom you love, Isaac, and dedicate him there for a burnt offering [or a dedication, literally, a  lifting up] on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.” (Genesis …

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