וירא

This week’s parsha details the events the lead up to the עקידה – the Binding of Isaac – and end with that ultimate test of Avraham’s faith (as the Rabbis understand it).  After saving his nephew Lot from capture in the war of the four kings against the five kings in last week’s parsha, Avraham intercedes on Lot’s behalf again as he argues with Hashem about the destruction of Sdom and Amorah.  Hashem reveals that these two cities are wicked beyond tolerance, and the Sforno notes that this marks a transition from the mode of communication that began our parsha.  The parsha begins “And Hashem appeared to Avraham…” (18:1), while, when the text switches to discussing the destruction of Sdom and Amorah, it says “And Hashem spoke…” (18:20).  Sforno comments: “Now the prophecy begins, which is a higher level than the vision that began our parsha” (all translations mine, see also his commentary to 17:1).  This seems like an odd statement, as one might think that a direct vision – an interaction with Hashem as with a friend – would clearly supersede a prophecy, as the Rabbis themselves envision the opening scene of our parsha as Hashem visiting the sick Avraham (as he is healing from his circumcision).  Why then would prophecy be lauded as a higher level of interaction with Hashem?  I think that the answer is that knowledge of the future is more valuable than knowledge of the present.  Excepting such cases where Hashem speaks to Moshe face-to-face – a clearly unparalleled intimacy with HashemSforno seems to be saying that Hashem is bestowing a greater kindness on a person by revealing to them the future than by appearing to them in the present.

God will reveal

In accordance with merit

Present, or future

 

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