Questions and Concepts for Parsha Va'yeirah
(Genesis 18:1-22:24)

1. Abraham encounters three angels who come in the form of men. What does this tell us about the capabilities of beings from the spiritual realm? Can angels from the "evil side" also appear human?

2.It is taught that every angel sent by God is given but "one assignment." Here, one angel (Michael, usually linked to Israel) gives news to Sarah. Another (Gabriel, an angel associated with judgment) goes forward to destroy Sodom and Gemmorah. The third (Raphael, an angel of healing) heals/comforts Abraham and as a second part of this assignment, later rescuse Lot.

3. In 18:3, Abraham refers to these angels as "lords" in the plural (aleph-dalet-nun-yod) but subsequently asks one of them in the singular (tav-ayin-bet-reish), not to pass him by. However, some of the Hebrew sages translate the noun as Lord (Adonai) thus indicating that Abraham's comments are directed toward God, through these angels. This follows the Hebraic tradition that the "servant of the King" is to be treated as if he were the King himself.

4. In 18:4, the three men sit under "the tree." The Hebrew text has the definitive article "the" as if it were a special tree. Hebraic tradition says that Abraham would always plant a special tree wherever he lived and that those sitting under this tree would cause its branches to spread out (if they were righteous people) or shrivel (if they were idolators). This special tree is also linked to the "Tree of Life," and by inviting people to sit under it, Abraham was encouraging them to "rest in God's shade" and not that of idols.

5. Verse 18:19 speaks of "paths" that are proper before the Lord. The idea of a "path" to God is typically associated with the path(s) of the Torah. Thus we see later (Genesis 26:5) that Abraham's faith is grounded in the Torah as God says of him, "Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws."

6. As God knows and sees all, why does verse 18:21 say the God will "go down" to "see" the situation? Might there be a lesson here for how we are to judge?

7. One who is said "sits at the gate" acts in the role of judge. Compare Lot in verse 19:1 and 19:9. Was Lot "qualified" to be in this role?

8. It is taught that Lot was saved on the merit of Abraham. How can we gain favor with God by "attaching" ourselves to a tzaddik (righteous person)? Does Lot appear to be "righteous" only because those among whom he lived were far worse? (See comments on Parsha Noah).

Consider this:
In the actual Hebrew text of verse18:9, the word for for "where is" (aleph-lamed-yod-vav) has special dots over three of the letters - aleph-yod-vav. This is a rare occurence in the Torah and it is a well established tradition to interpret the dotted letters apart from the other in the word, if the dotted ones are the majority of the letters in the word (which they are in this case.) When we take the numerical value of these three letters we arrive at a total of 17. The number 17 has important meaning in the sod (hidden) level of Hebraic interpretation as it is associated with the union of above and below. (See our Revelation study notes for other examples such as Moses, Betzalel and Yeshua at). Abraham and Sarah as  prophets (see last week's parsha) brought unification of the upper and lower realms.