Parshat Vayeira Summary

Parshat Vayeira is the 4th parsha in Sefer Bereshit (also known as Genesis).

This parsha is verses Genesis 18:1 – 22:24, or a total of 147 verses.

Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.

Aliyah 1: Genesis 18:1 – 18:14, 14 verses

At the end of parshat Lech Lecha, God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself.

In the first verses in this parsha, Abraham is sitting at the entrance of his tent. God appears to him. According to Jewish tradition, this visit happened while Abraham was recovering from the circumcision.

Abraham sees three visitors approaching. He offers them a place to rest and a meal.

During the meal, one of the visitors (who are actually angels, messengers from God) informs Abraham that Sarah will soon give birth to a son.

Sarah hears this proclamation and is stunned by the news and laughs.

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Aliyah 2: Genesis 18:15 – 18:33, 19 verses

The meal is over and Abraham accompanies his guests as they resume their journey.

They head toward Sodom.

God reveals to Abraham that if the reports of the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah are correct, then He will destroy the cities.

Abraham pleads for the cities to be spared based on the number of righteous people that may be found within them.

He starts by asking for God to save the cities if there are within them 50 righteous people. God accepts his plea.

Abraham does not stop with one request. He keeps lowering the number of righteous people and asking God to save the communities. He pleads for salvation based on 45, then 40, 30, 20, and finally 10.

In each case, God accepts Abraham’s plea. Abraham does not request salvation for the cities based on fewer than 10 righteous people.

Aliyah 3: Genesis 19:1 – 19:20, 20 verses

Two angels come to Sodom. Lot sees them and offers them lodging in his house. At first they refuse but Lot insists.

After a meal, the people of Sodom come to the house and demand that Lot give his guests to them. They want to sexually abuse the guests.

Lot refuses. In a desperate act of moral confusion, he offers them his two daughters instead.

The crowd starts to attack Lot, but he is saved by the two angels.

The angels inform Lot that they were going to destroy Sodom. They urge him and his family to prepare to flee from the city.

When morning comes, only Lot, his wife, and his two daughters flee the city. The angels tell Lot to flee to the mountains. He asks to be allowed to flee rather to a nearby small town.

Aliyah 4: Genesis 19:21 – 21:4, 40 verses

This long reading consists of several distinct sections.

Destruction of Sodom – verses 19:21 – 19:29

The angels grant Lot’s request to flee to the small town of Zoar.

As Lot arrives at Zoar, God destroys Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding area. Lot’s wife dies when she looks back to see what is happening to the cities.

Abraham returns to the spot where he had pleaded with God to save the cities. He is permitted to see the destruction.

Lot and His Daughters – verses 19:30 – 19:38

Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar. He took his two daughters and fled to the mountains and hid in a cave.

His daughters were convinced that the only survivors of the destruction were the three of them. They thought the whole world was destroyed by God, not just the area around Sodom.

They decide to continue the human species by getting pregnant by their father.

They get Lot drunk with wine and have sexual relations with him. Both of them give birth to sons. Those sons became the founders of the nations of Moab and Ammon.

Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech – verses 20:1 – 20:18

Abraham moves the south of the country and settles in Gerar. The king of Gerar, Abimelech, takes Sarah to make her his wife.

God cautions Abimelech in a dream not to touch Sarah.

God assures Abimelech that He knew that Abimelech acted in an innocent way toward Sarah. God tells him to return Sarah to Abraham so that Abraham will pray for him.

Abimelech gives gifts to Abraham and Sarah and permits them to settle in Gerar.

Abraham prayed for Abimelech and God healed all of the members of his household.

It is worthwhile to contrast this incident with what happened when Abraham went into Egypt (see Parshat Lech Lecha in Aliyah 2).

Birth of Isaac – verses 21:1 – 21:4

We are now told the details of the birth of Isaac. It happened at the time that God had promised.

Abraham circumcises Isaac on the 8th day, as God had previously commanded him.

Aliyah 5: Genesis 21:5 – 21:21, 17 verses

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. Therefore, Isaac was born in the year 2048 after the creation of Adam.

Sarah saw Ishmael behaving in an inappropriate way toward Isaac. She tells Abraham to expel Hagar and Ishmael from their household.

Abraham does not want to do what Sarah demanded. However, God tells him to listen to his wife. God tells Abraham that his line will continue via Isaac. That is to say, that Isaac will be the one to continue Abraham’s mission in the world.

Also, He assured Abraham that Ismael would become a nation.

Abraham expels Hagar and Ishmael. They wander in the wilderness and almost die. But, God shows Hagar where to get water and they survive.

Aliyah 6: Genesis 21:22 – 21:34, 13 verses

Abimelech saw what God was doing for Abraham. Therefore, Abimelech asked Abraham to make a type of peace agreement with him and his descendants.

Abraham accepts Abimelech’s proposal. Abraham uses this event to talk to Abimelech about a well. Abraham’s servants had dug it, but Abimelech’s servants had stolen it.

Abraham gives Abimelch 7 female sheep to signify that the well belongs to Abraham.

After making this agreement with Abimelech, Abraham lives in Beer Sheva.

Aliyah 7: Genesis 22:1 – 22:24, 24 verses

binding of Isaac
Stained Glass in Wormser Dom in Worms, Germany, depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham

This final reading in Parshat Vayeira describes the Binding of Isaac (in Hebrew, Akeidat Yitzchak).

According to Jewish tradition, God tested Abraham 10 times. Many commentators consider Akeidat Yitzchak as the 10th and most significant test.

The popular conception is that Isaac was just a child when this happened. However, according to tradition, the akeidah was in the year 2085, so that Isaac was already 37 years old.

God commands Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah and slaughter him on the altar like an animal offering.

Abraham did not hesitate to obey God. He gathers together some wood, a fire, and a knife. He then takes Isaac goes to the place.

They arrive at the place designated by God for the offering. Abraham builds an altar and places wood on it. He then ties up Isaac and places him on the altar.

Just as Abraham is about to slaughter Isaac, God stops him. Abraham spots a ram that was nearby and caught by its horns in some shrubs.

Abraham takes the ram and offers it as an offering in the place of Isaac.

God proclaims to Abraham that because of his obedience to God’s decree, God will bless him, increase his offspring, his offspring will prevail over their enemies, and that all nations will pray to be like his offspring.

After these events, Abraham returns to Beer Sheva.

He then hears the news that his brother Nachor had children and grandchildren. The most significant of these children is Rebecca (Rivka) who will become Isaac’s wife (see Parshat Chayei Sarah).

Haftarah Summary

Ashkenzic tradition: 2 Kings 4:1 – 37

Sefardic tradition: 2 Kings 4:1 – 23

This haftarah relates two incidents in the life of the prophet Elisha. In the first he helps a widow raise the money to pay her creditors and save her children from being taken as slaves.

In the second incident, he receives hospitality from a childless woman. He gives her a blessing that she will give birth to a child, even though her husband is old.

Further Reading

Here’s another article about Sarah laughing.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
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