Thursday, November 01, 2007

Notes on Vayerah

My opinion is that Vayerah is the richest and most interesting of the weekly sedrahs. A short sampling of the good stuff:

1 - Parallels and antithesis
(a) The angles visit to Abraham vs. their visit to Lot
- The guest are eagerly welcomed and fed (duh) (p)
- Both men are sitting at an entrance when the guests appear (p)
- Abraham's guests arrive at midday; Lot's arrive at twilight (a)
- Sarah laughs; the son in laws of Lot laugh (the same verb is used) (the laughter itself is a parallel, the reason for the laughter is an antithesis.
- Following the visit Abraham asks God to spare a city and fails; Lot, likewise asks for divine mercy but succeeds (a)

(b) The destruction of Sodom vs. destruction of the world
- The word himtir appears in both places; both are destroyed by precipitation
- In each case, moral perversion is the reason given for the destruction
- In each case, one family is marked for survival
- In each case, the hero becomes drunk immediately afterwards, and is involved in an illicit act.

(c) Yishmael's trip to the desert vs Yitzchak's trip to the mountain
- Abraham "rose early in the morning" both to send Hagar away, and to begin his trip with Yitzchakl
- He first puts bread and water on Hagar; next he puts wood on Isaac
- In each case an angel intervenes when the boy is on the brink of death
- At the last moment, eyes are opened.
- In each case the angel promises that the boy will produce a great nation

(d) Abraham's grandson Yaakov has 12 sons: so do his brother Nahor and his first son Yishmoel

(e) The sin of Sodom vs the crime of Procrustes

(f) The Lord's visit to Abraham vs. Kothar's visit to Dan'el [*], a judge in the Ugaritic epic of Eqhat
- Dan'el also sits by an entrance
- He "lifts up his eyes" to apprehend the divine visitor; and
- tells his wife to prepare a meal with the best of the best.

2 - Mussar
- Lot offers his virgin daughters to the mob, but ends up deflowering them himself (mida kneged mida)
- The famous point made by SRH about Avraham's use of the word's "midst of the city"
- The famous point made by SRH about how we are to view non-Jews

3 - Famous Parshanut discussions
- The mocking of Issac. What was Yishmael's sin? Attempted murder? Rape? Or, as Alter cleverly concludes from Sarah's reaction and the appearance of the word metzachek "we may also be invited to construe it as Issac-ing -- thatis Sarah sees Ishmael as playing the role of Issac... as presuming to be the legitimate heir."
- The age of Yitzchak at the Akeida

4 Plot holes
- Where did Lot's daughters find wine?

5 - Unanswered questions
- Why is the Davidic line born in sin?

[*] Incidently, some speculate that the third person mentioned in Ezekiel 14:14 is Dan'el, the Ugaritic Judge, not Daniel the lion tamer (Reasons: The other two listed are gentiles, and the book of Daniel was written long after Ezekiel)

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