Parashat Vayera: Hagar – The Journey of Education

by Josh Gaventa, Rosh Madrich. Parashat Vayera is packed full of stories worth dealing with. There is the story of the three angels visiting Avraham after his Brit Milah, the story of how Yitzchak was born, the dramatic events in Sodom and finally the heart-wrenching story of Akeidat Yitzchak. One of the key themes of the Parasha is hospitality. We read how Avraham exemplified Jewish hospitality to his three guests and we read of how Sodom treated their guests with suspicion and eventually drove them out from amongst them. The fear of the ‘other’ is perhaps one of the most destructive forces in today’s world and these stories could teach us a great deal about the unconditional love, or at least respect for the ‘other’. However, I would like to focus on a different story entirely. The story of Hagar and Ishmael’s banishment from Avraham’s camp is for me, very troubling. Avraham, the paragon of Ahavat Chessed, a loving-kindness and of Emunah – faith, decides to banish an innocent woman and child from his home; leaving them to the wilderness. How could this be? This question notwithstanding, I think another message can be learnt from this story. During the eleven Pesukim that the Torah gives to the story, Hagar casts off her son under a tree so that she doesn’t have to see him die. Then an angel calls to her and tells her not to worry because God has decided to help her, and the angel reveals a well for them both to drink from. The story levels off shortly after the child has grown up and we...