This week: Catastrophe
The promise of Isaac’s conception, the firestorm of Sodom & Gomorrah, the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael, the near-death of Isaac at his father’s hand… so much drama, destruction, and dysfunctionality packed into one Torah portion. I became obsessed with the messengers of the narrative: the “men” who visited Avraham while he was recuperating from his circumcision at the age of 99 and told him of his soon-to-be paternity; the “men” who cautioned Lot about the fate of his adopted city; God’s unseen messenger who spoke up on Mount Moriah and kept Avraham from killing his son; and then there’s God’s very own Self reassuring Hagar in the wilderness of Be’er Sheva, reassuring Avraham that she and his first-born would be okay, and in heartbreaking clarity asking our Patriarch to make of his son a burnt offering. What a job they had!
Human beings make choices in Vayera – Lot decides to flee for his life, his wife looks back, and his daughters get him drunk and seduce him (thinking he’s the last man on Earth). Hagar sits off a distance so as not to see her son dying of thirst. Avraham argues with God over the firebombing of 2 cities – but not the death of his own son. Sarah laughs at the prophesied pregnancy and then denies her own laughter. We act, yes, but always in response to something the universe throws our way. We act – but we are almost always unprepared for what is right before our eyes. This poem also speaks to our blindness and the aftershock.