This Week in Torah
Our Torah portion this week, Parshat Vayeira, covers a variety of events. The first is the birth and near-sacrifice of Isaac, the second is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the third is the story of Hagar and Ishmael. I would like to focus on the story of Hagar and Ishmael, as it offers an important lesson, namely not to get so caught up in ourselves that we fail to see the obvious.
In a day and age complicated by heavy workloads, crazy schedules, smart phones, carpooling, traffic, construction, and other things that make up the routine of our daily lives, we frequently fail to notice what is right in front of us. This is not just limited to people in the 20th century. In fact, this week’s Torah portion contains the story of Hagar and Ishmael dying of thirst in the desert. Expelled from the security of the caravan with Abraham and Sarah, Hagar takes her young son, Ishmael, into the desert. Unwilling to watch him die, she places him under a tree and then wanders off to a distance, where she sits down and sobs. “For she thought: ‘I cannot look on as my child dies.’ And sitting thus at a distance she wept loudly…Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water, and gave the child drink.” (Genesis 21:9)
Let us note carefully that the Torah does not state that God created a new well for Hagar. The miracle of the well is that it was there all along. In the time of her child’s need, God “opened her eyes” to the well that she had overlooked. In truth, the key to her son’s survival and salvation lay close at hand; but she was too trapped in her own despair to notice what was right in before her.
If only God could do for us what He did for Hagar in the desert. In Midrash Bereishit Rabbah, it states, “All may be presumed to be blind until the Holy Blessing One opens their eyes.” If God could open our eyes to the multitudes of blessings that lay before us, to the myriad opportunities and everyday miracles that we so often neglect and overlook. If we could only see the obvious, what a solution that would be to the trivial complaints that makes up our everyday routine.
By overlooking the obvious, we not only deprive ourselves of the potential gifts that lay so close at hand, but we also run the risk of failing to tap into our innate talents and abilities. If we truly looked at what lies before us and within us, we might rid ourselves of the awful conviction of “what if” and “had not.”
And so, my message for all of us is this: let us not forget to stop and smell the roses. May we have the ability to see what we might not ordinarily see; and may we appreciate the small things in life, that can make the difference between routine, and the beauty of a new day.
Cantor Diane Yomtov