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God’s Sign Language

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. — Genesis 18:1

The Torah portion for this week, Vayeira, which means “and he appeared” is from Genesis 18:1—22:24, and the Haftorah is from 2 Kings 4:1–37.

This week’s Torah portion is called Vayeira, meaning “and he appeared.” In this particular instance, God appeared to Abraham who had just undergone circumcision and was healing in his tent. But the theme of “appearing” continues throughout the portion, binding together the many stories in this portion of the Torah.

After God appeared to Abraham, three men – who we later discover are angels – appeared to him as well. Later, those same angels appeared to Lot, Abraham’s nephew living in Sodom. When Hagar and Ishmael were banished from Abraham’s house and found themselves on the brink of death in the desert, an oasis appeared before Hagar and they were saved. Finally, just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, he was told to stop and a ram appeared which Abraham sacrificed instead.

In most of these stories, the appearance of a person or a thing was followed by immediate action. Abraham saw three travelers, so he ran to invite them in to be his guests. Lot did the same. When Abraham saw the ram, he understood that he was meant to sacrifice it to God.

But the storyline changed somewhat when it came to Hagar. In her case, before the oasis appeared, God had to “open her eyes” (Genesis 21:19). It seems that not all appearances are apparent. Sometimes, we have to open our eyes to see them.

This week’s Torah portion is all about the signs and messages that God sends us all the time. But do we see them? Are we open to them? When we go through life with eyes wide open, our feet know what do. When we can recognize God’s signals, we know what actions should follow.

Imagine what might have happened if Abraham had not taken notice of the three strangers passing by his home? He never would have had his life-changing encounter with those messengers of God. What if Hagar was unable to see the spring of water in the desert? She and her son would have surely died. Everything that shows up in our lives is sent to us for a reason. It’s up to us to open our eyes and read God’s messages.

This week, consider what God might be sending a message to us. Maybe there’s someone we can help, or a situation that we can address. What opportunities are present? Take advantage of them. What challenges do we see? They are there to help us grow.

God shows up in our lives every single day. The question is: Do we see Him?

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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