By Rabbi Michael Werbow
Special to WJW
This week’s Torah portion is Vayera, Genesis 18:1-22:24.
Imagine the urgency with which Abraham greeted his guests. As soon as he saw them coming he ran to greet them. After he welcomed them and he indicated that he would give them something to eat, we are told that he “hastened into the tent to Sarah and said, ‘Quick, three measures of choice flour, knead and make cakes.’” He wasn’t even using full sentences to give instructions.
Next, he ran to the herd, picked a calf “tender and choice” and gave it to the servant to “quickly” prepare it.
We can look at all this running around in two different ways. Either we see it as Abraham’s desire to satisfy his guests as quickly as possible, or we can view it as him not giving the preparations the time and attention that they really deserved.
Some things should be easy and quick and some things should take time. Some things we should get right to and some things we should take appropriate time to contemplate our actions before making the first move.
Many of us will remember the commercials for Paul Masson wines, when the great Orson Welles declared, “We will sell no wine before its time.”
It is all too easy to rush through things, especially when so much information is at our disposal and more and more devices are available to make our lives easier. We can learn a lesson from Abraham. It wasn’t until all the rushing around was done that he was finally able to sit with his guests, spend some quality time and hear the important news that they had come to share.
Abraham jumped into action when he saw the visitors. Many of us jump as well when we are confronted by something that supports our opinion about a particular matter. If it reinforces our opinion, we are quick to embrace it. But if it challenges our thoughts, we are just as quick to dismiss it.
How many of us have really put our beliefs to the test? Do we spend time evaluating and re-evaluating these beliefs or do we hold onto them blindly without ever subjecting them and ourselves to scrutiny? And, if we do come up against challenges to our beliefs, are we willing to face these challenges and stand up for our beliefs? Or do we quickly allow our beliefs to be overcome and find it easier to say we don’t believe?
Most of us probably fall in a third category. We just say we are unsure and then we don’t have to take the time to do the hard work either way.
Learn from Abraham’s example in a later episode. When he is told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham takes a more methodical approach. He saddled his donkey, he chopped the wood and he went on the journey with Isaac. He didn’t pass any of this off to servants so it would get done quicker. He knew the importance of the act and did it all himself in a thoughtful manner.
Let us all approach our responsibility to weigh issues in a similar way. Feel the obligation yourself.
Do the appropriate research, weigh all the issues that are important to you and be methodical when coming to your opinions. Some things just shouldn’t be rushed.
Rabbi Michael Werbow leads Tifereth Israel Congregation, in Washington.