Drash Cards for VaYeira (5776)
by Marc Mangel
- Remember Elul and Tishrei – when we make decisions and commitments about profoundly changing ourselves?
- Well, Elul has come and gone and now we are more than halfway through Chesvan.
- Teshuvah is hard and it is easy to slip back. So maybe you’ve decided “Eh, won’t work this year. I will try again next year”.
- Susan and I were recently reminded – not by anybody in this congregation — that as we get older our true self emerges.
- This happens because the frontal lobe – which inhibits behavior – weakens and behaviors that we have been inhibiting emerge.
- Thus Teshuvah cannot be about forcing yourself to inhibit inappropriate sexual behavior or gluttony or verbal nastiness or any other undesirable character trait. Rather Teshuvah has to be about changing yourself profoundly so that you don’t have to inhibit poor traits but they are eliminated.
- This week’s Torah portion begins with a terrific reminder of this point. Ch 18, v1: “And God appeared to him…”. Rashi writes that ‘to him’ rather than ‘to Abraham’ because the Torah is connecting this parsha with the last one.
- At the end of Lech Lecha, Abraham circumcises himself and Ishmael. Ishmael is 13 but Abraham is 99. Rashi writes that God decides to check in on how Abraham is doing 3 days after the circumcision — certainly a sensible idea. This is the setting in which Abraham’s true personality comes out.
- Abraham is sitting at the front of his tent in the heat of the day when the three angels/men appear. He does not say “Go away – I am feeling pretty lousy because I was just circumcised”. Rather he begs them to stay, to let him give them water, wash their feet, and give them bread.
- At 99, Abraham’s true self – chesed personified – appears even though he is weakened from the circumcision.
- We don’t know if Abraham was born that way or made a profound transformation earlier in life, but at this point in his life his true self has clearly emerged.
- So with us: Teshuvah should be profound change and there is not a minute to be lost – we need a sense of urgency in making these changes. So if you slipped back, do not despair but just start again from today making those changes so that when you are older the self that people see is the one that you want it to be.
- Keep in mind: teshuvah requires a goal AND a sense of urgency.