Breishit (Genesis)The Book of Genesis is concerned with beginnings: the creation of the world and the origin of humanity. It quickly shifts its focus from universal history to the history of the Jewish people beginning in chapter 12, with the introduction of Abraham, the first Jew. The remainder of the book focuses on the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, and Joseph. The book ends with the entire family of Jacob descending into Egypt. There are fifty chapters, divided into twelve parashiyot. The parashiyot in Breishit are: Breishit, Noah, Lech Lecha, VaYera, Chaye Sarah, Toldot, VaYetze, VaYishlach, VaYeshev, Miketz, VaYigash and VaYechi.

Va yera

VaYera : Every morning how grateful we should be to awaken a new day.

This is one of the most complex parashiyot in the Torah. As it opens, Abraham is sitting at the opening of his tent, when he notices three 'men' approaching. The men, who are actually messengers from God, accept Abraham's offer of hospitality and then announce to Abraham and Sarah that Sarah will bear a child in her old age. Sarah (as would most 90 year old women) responds to this news by laughing. Afterwards, Abraham accompanies the three visitors as they proceeded on their journey. Two of the divine messengers make their way toward Sodom, while God makes known to Abraham the plan to destroy the sinful city. Abraham debates with God, earnestly interceding on behalf of the doomed city. But after protracted haggling, when not even ten righteous people are found in Sodom, God proceeds with the city's destruction. Abraham's nephew Lot, who tried to protect the messengers from the Sodomites' abuse, escapes the destruction with his two daughters. Later, hidden in a cave, thinking that they are the only ones left in the world, Lot's daughter's ply him with drink and sleep with him, hoping to repopulate the world. Abraham then moves southward, and settles near Gerar. Here, with Abimelech the King of Gerar, there is a repeat of the earlier wife/sister deception with Pharaoh (Gen 20). Soon after this event, Isaac is born to Abraham and Sarah. Abraham, who is now a hundred years old, circumcises his new son with great celebration. But Sarah now becomes deeply jealous of Hagar and her son Ishmael, and insists that Abraham send them away. Abraham consults with God, who assures him that Ishmael too will become the father of a great nation. Next, after a gap of many years, we see Abraham put to his greatest test. God appears to Abraham and commands him to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice. They travel together to Mount Moriah (later to be the site of the Temple in Jerusalem) where Abraham binds up Isaac and raises his knife to slaughter him. But he is stopped by God, who provides a ram as a substitute. Abraham then returns to his home at Beer Sheba.

Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.

These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.

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