At first glance, Parshas Vayeira is a direct continuation of Parshas Lech Lecha. In Parshas Lech Lecha we read of Avraham’s journeys, disputes, wars and family life. And here, in Parshas Vayeira the story continues, as we read a further instalment in the life and times of the first Jew.
The Torah, however, is not a history book. It is intended to be a source of valuable teachings and inspiration to guide us along the path towards our Creator. So we could not possibly by reading here two “instalments” of Avraham’s story. Each Parsha is a self-contained entity in itself, complete with its own unique message, conveyed by its name.
So, what is the lesson of Vayeira, and how is it distinct from Lech Lecha?
The basic distinction between these two Parshiyos is that Parshas Vayeira describes Avraham’s life and efforts after being circumcised.
Circumcision is referred to not only as a mitzvah – a particular method of connecting to G-d – but, more importantly, as a covenant. I.e. it encapsulates the message of Judaism in general.
There is a basic principle of Judaism that spirituality should not be relegated to the abstract higher spheres of existence. Instead, the Torah’s principles need to become tangible and apparent in man’s flesh and blood.
Chasidic thought shuns the approach of abandoning physicality in search for spirituality. On the contrary, our goal is to make the physical world receptive and sensitive to the Divine. And this occurs most vividly and effectively in the covenant of circumcision, where the spirituality associated with a mitzvah become permanently embossed in man’s flesh.
And that is why this Parsha is called Vayeira – “G-d appeared to him” – because everything that we read in the following pages describes a new era in Avraham’s life, where this physical body had become a receptacle for Divinity, through the covenant of circumcision.
The lesson for us: As descendants of Avraham, G-d’s presence is very apparent in our lives. For this reason, we find that even children are naturally drawn to kissing a mezuzah, or saying a blessing, etc.
So when we read in the Torah how G-d appears to Avraham, we should be aware that G-d also appears to us. The only difference is that Avraham was given the ability to see this with his eyes.
But, as descendants of Avraham, we should not be satisfied with G-d’s invisible presence. We should cry out and ask: Why is it that G-d showed Himself to Avraham, and He does not show Himself to us?