SYNOPSIS OF VA-YERA
Avraham, healing from circumcision, is sitting at the opening of his tent (Petah Ohel). Three beings appear to him in the distance. Avraham, though feeling poorly, jumps up to greet them. He invites them into his home and makes sure they are well fed and comfortable. Soon after, one of the visitors reveals that Sarah and Avraham will bring a son into the world. Soon after the visitors depart, Lot and his family are located and directed to safety. Sadly, Lot’s wife glanced at the city of Sodom being destroyed and she transforms into a pillar of salt. Following this huge loss, Lot’s daughters do their part in an attempt to repopulate. The next generation – Yitzhak – is born to aging parents. Sarah is uncomfortable with the way Ishmael plays with Yitzhak, and sends Hagar and Yishmael away. Avraham‘s faith is tested.
(adapted from Living Torah by R Aryeh Kaplan and Meta Parahiyot by R David Wolfe-Blank zt”l)
WHO ARE THE THREE VISITORS?
The holy Zohar reveals that what Avraham saw in the distance was Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov. How can Avraham see himself, his yet unborn son, and grandson?
This is a “Meta” understanding. Through this method, the Zohar reveals which Divine attributes associated were visible on the horizon.
(Check out the Classical Kabbalah Connectivity charts at the end of this post for S’firah references, Shaarei Orah by Yoseph Gikatilla, Kabbalah prayer books – like Siddur Oz haT’fillah.)
Avraham embodies the attribute of Hesed (Expansion). Yitzhak is the master of G’vurah (Boundaries) as a result of the Akedah. Yaakov is the ancestor modeling Tiferet and Truth. The Zohar is saying that Avraham saw the presence of Hesed, G’vurah, and Tiferet on the horizon.
Who are these visitors? The Zohar reveals that these visitors are the High Angels Micha’el, Gavri’el, and Rapha’el. Each angel resonates a particular S’firah. Micha’el brings Hesed‘s expansion and grace, Gavriel is the messenger of G’vurah‘s boundaries and contraction, Rapha’el brings healing through Tiferet’s balance, and harmony. These three angels came to Earth, each on a unique mission.
WHAT IS THEIR MISSION?
Micha’el, came to announce to Sarah that she was to give birth to a son; Raphael, came to heal Abraham after his circumcision; and Gabriel, went to overturn Sodom. Additionally, there is a reading in Talmud that Raphael got Lot out of Sodom before the destruction.
(Adapted from BT Baba Metzia 86:B, Zohar Vayera 1:99a, 106:b Zohar Pritzker Edition volume 2 by Daniel C. Matt 1:99a, 106:b )
VA-YERA IS NETZAH IN HESED
ETERNITY WITHIN LOVINGKINDNESS
Netzah represents a process of industriousness which is has positive aspects, but coming so soon after creation (and the stars of Hesed, G’vurah, and Tiferet) one may notice that there is something serious missing in Netzah. The initial development of the S’firotic process is over and Netzah and the rest of the S’firot serve chiefly to embody what the earlier S’firot have pioneered and shaped.
In this Torah portion, Sodom and Gomorra are judged. They are found to be lacking conscious people. Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Yitzhak, Ishmael, and others are tested too.
Testing serves only to raise to the surface what is there, and what is missing.
The “missing” elements are understanding and compassion. This movement mirrors the change that takes place when shifting from the first triad (Hesed, G’vurah, Tiferet) to the next (Netzah, Hod, Yesod) .
(adapted from Meta Parshiyot 5756 R David Wolfe-Blank zt”l )
BIRTH OF YITZHAK
Yitzhak is born to Avraham and Sarah providing (the possibility of) continuity (Netzah) of generations to follow them. This provides progeny, a sense of Eternity in Grace (Avraham).
SENDING AWAY HAGAR AND YISHMAEL
Sadly, this familial challenge cultivated into a break that perseveres (Netzah) to this day. Hesed of creation is a backdrop for what happens. This is the family of Avraham, the icon of Hesed, Grace. Less Netzah with this aspect, please.
HAGAR AND YISHMAEL IN THE ROSH HASHANAH MAHZOR
Avraham (Hesed) sending away Hagar and Yishma’el is recalled on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. (Netzah).
THE AKEDAH – THE BINDING OF ISAAC
This reading is a disturbing one because it deal with child sacrifice. Sadly, it was practiced too commonly at this time in human history.
Avraham – the pillar of Lovingkindness’ – was willing to sacrifice his precious precious son. He was willing to give up what was most dear to him. He was supportive of anything he heard The Holy One tell him. Fortunately, Avraham did not complete the act. It is still a difficult passage.
THE AKEDAH IN THE SIDDUR AND MAHZOR
Shahareet, the daily morning prayer service, includes this Torah reading in daily prayer practice. It is in the Torah service on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, as well. Avraham is the pillar of Hesed. The privilege to pray as a Jew is Hesed. The Akedah is eternally implanted in the Jewish psyche – Netzah – by means of the special focus of these readings.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM VA-YERA IN PRAYER
‘Avot‘, meaning ‘ancestors’, is first prayer in the Amidah (standing sequence prayer, a pinnacle of the service) referenced in last week’s post. It begins with the traditional blessing formula Barukh atah HaShem – You are the pool of blessings… and names the ancestors – Elokai (G!D of) Avraham, Elokai Yitzhak, and Elokai Yaakov. Liberal communities include the ancestral mothers as well – Elokai Sarah, Elokai Rivkah, Elokai Leah and Rahel.
MEDITATION – PATRIARCHS
Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov are architypes of of Hesed, G’vurah, and Tiferet as mentioned above. A meditative practice found in Sfardi and Kabbalah siddurim (Siddur Oz HaT’fillah for example) reference them as three energetic pillars – Hesed, G’vurah, and Tiferet also referenced in Zohar and other writings.
The name Avraham invokes Hesed the pillar on the right hand side. Next, Yitzhak calls in G’vurah the pillar on the left hand side. Yaakov invites in the center line for Tiferet. These three pillars of our ancestors offer foundation, stability, leaning into a sense of being grounded.
When chanting Amidah visualize the Ohr Ein Sof (Divine Light) sequencing through Hesed – from your right shoulder and moving to Earth when chanting Avraham. Next invoke the pillar of G’vurah moving from your left shoulder to Earth when saying Yitzhak. When articulating Yaakov invite Ohr Ein Sof into center pillar moving from heart center to the Earth. You can lean into it, as it were, for support.
The Matriarchs each model unique and distinct spiritual skills, different from their partners. Their contributions become obscured through the common practice of aligning the Matriarch’s name with her spouse for inclusion. It does not honor them sufficiently in my experience.
INCLUDE THE MATRIARCHS IN THE ANCESTOR PRAYER
Simply add ‘Elokai Sarah, Elokai Rivka, Elokai Leah v’Rahel’ following Elokai Yaakov.
SARAH AND RIVKAH
Sarah is the priestess and the archetype of Hod (Lower left hand side (hip) on the Tree of Life). Rivkah is the archetype of Netzah (right hip). She unilaterally make the decision that Yaakov should receive Yitzhak’s blessing and inheritance rather than Esau, the first born.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi zt”l taught that this model offers a sense of balance between the ancestral spouses.
AVRAHAM AND SARAH
The Hesed portal, associated with Avraham, is on the right shoulder and the Hod portal, modeled by Sarah, is on lower left hip. Imagine the connection on your torso.
YITZHAK AND RIVKAH
G’vurah, attributed to Yitzhak, is associated with the Left shoulder and the Netzah attributed to Rivkah is accessed at the right hip. Imagine the connection on your torso.
These two connections create an “X” across the body and a sense of balance and support. Check it out and see how it feels to you.
LEAH AND RAHEL in LURIANIC KABBALAH
Leah is the Lurianic architype for Binah, one of the upper three S’firot, denoting Divine understanding and a holistic perspective. Binah is referred to as Supernal Mother, Eemah Eelah-ah. Rahel is the archetype of Sh’khinah, the great receiver. She is also known as Malkhut and Nukvah in Lurianic Kabbalah. Great blessing is received when Binah gives directly to Sh’khinah.
MEDITATION – MATRIARCHS
When saying the words “Elokai Sarah” activate the portal to Hod, the left hip, “Elokai Rivkah“, Netzah – the right hip. Invite a gentle tension, a stretch activated across the belly – like a seat belt, strapping you in before “take-off”.
Close your eyes. Imagine the upper three S’firot – Keter, Hokhmah, and Binah as three concentric circles around your head. Binah (Leah) is the outermost circle. Imagine Binah getting ready to birth Ohr Ayn Sof Divine light into our world filling a blessing bucket. “Elokai Leah” fills this blessing bucket.
When saying “Elokai Rahel“, visualize the blessing bucket on high releasing nourishment (Shefa) invoking the blessing to flow from Binah (Leah) directly to Sh’khinah (Rahel) for life on Earth to sustain and benefit. The connection is made and amplifies nourishment to Sh’khinah and blessing life on Earth.