Interfaith Vayeira

Discussion in 'Interfaith Parsha Project' started by dauer, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Vayeira! I like to say that word. 18:1-22:4 of Genesis.

    http://www.chabad.org/parshah/TorahReading.asp?AID=9170

    So what's going on with this laughter? Who are these three men? Why is Abraham acting like he does around them? And what's this inner monologue of God we get to peek in on? What's happening there?

    Dauer
     
  2. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    I guess I jumped ahead and mixed up two of the parsha's in a previous post ....
    from the Zohar:
    "The opening of the tent is the opening of Righteousness ..this is the first opening to enter.. through this opening, all other high openings come into view. One who attains the clarify of this opening discovers all the other openings, for all of them abide here. Now that Israel is in exile this opening is unknown; all the openings have abandoned Her. It is impossible to know, impossible to grasp. But when Israel comes forth from exile, all the soaring spheres will touch down upon this opening, one by one."

    so the three "lords" or men are symbolically three of the spheres on the tree of life .... "to the degree that one opens the gates of imagination, the capacity to connect with the spirit of wisdom, to imagine in one's heart-mind ---- this is how God becomes known." (The Zohar Translation by Daniel Chanan Matt)

    On another level this parsha speaks to the value of a friend's advice (Rabbi Zev Leff) who said that before God created man he first consulted with the angels .... and in this parsha Abraham will seek the advice of friends regarding whether or not to circumcise himself and his entire household. It is important to seek the advice of someone who is not biased with respect to the matters of concern because our own desires and biases blind us from weighting the pros and cons objectively. Another aspect is to know that receiving guests even at the expense of one's self because entertaining guest requires consideration of another's needs and shedding one's own narrow subjectivity. The ability to attain objectivity allows perception of the truth of the Divine on a constant basis. Thus the ability to properly treat guests is superior to a one-time revelation of God's presence. That is why Abraham left his communication with God to attend to his three guests.

    how do you say "Vayeira" .... can you spell it out phonetically .... mahalo nui, poh
     
  3. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    vah-yay-rah.

    So what's the deal with the monologue given by God before He speaks to Avraham? What is the purpose of including this? What does it mean?
     
  4. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    several ways to look at this .... one is that he was meditation and went into the "tent" to speak with God when the three "men or angels or spheres" appeared .... he left his meditation to tend to them (he left the opening of the tent).... according to Rabi Zev Leff "we learn that receiving guests is greater than receiving God's presence, for Avraham interrupted his communion with God to run to greet the three angels disguised as men." So why would receiving guests be greater than receiving God's presence .... because "entertaining guests requires consideration of another's needs and shedding one's own narrow subjectivity. The ability to attain objectivity allows perception of the truth of the Divine on a constant basis." I highlighted portions of the above because this seems to be the answer to the reason that Avraham would leave his conversation with God to greet the three guests.

    The Zohar seems on the otherhand to focus on the opening of the gate (which would be the tent opening through meditation) ....(Psalms 24:7) Through these gates, these spheres on high, the Blessed Holy One becomes known. Were it not so, no one could commune with Him" .... the three that appear are spheres and part of the opening of the gate and the capacity to connect with the spirit of wisdom .... the focus is only on the fact that Israel is in exile and when Israel comes forth from exile, "all the soaring spheres will touch down upon this opening, one by one ... then human beings will perceive wondrous, precious wisdom never known by them before. They say that Abvraham embodies the sefirah of Hesed, Divine Love.

    Maimonides states in his Introduction to his Guide of the Perplexed, ultimate secrets cannot be taught, only indicated.

    "Know that whenever one of the perfect wishes to mention, either orally or in writing something that he understands of these secrets, according to the degree of his perfection, he is unable to explain with complete clarity and coherence even the portion that he has apprehended, as he could do with the other sciences whose teachig is generally recognized. Rather, there will befall him when teaching another that which he had undergone when learning himself. I mean to say that the subject matter will appear, flash, and then be hidden again, as though this were the nature of this subject matter."

    Like the lightening flash or bolt of lightening, none of us are perfect so we have insights at moments and then we lose them again .... so it is with the Torah, she offers a glimpse and then it is gone .... the moment of insight that we can never but fully into words .... perhaps Abvraham does the same thing, he is in deep communion with this insight and having his usual conversation with God (of which he has many) then the visitors appear and he loses it for the moment and goes on with his everyday life to care for his guests with as much passion and goodness as he does in his meditation.

    Perhaps the parsha takes us systematically through a description of each sefireh .... I don't really know, ....perhaps it is more "daat" (intuition) ....(I'm trying to learn more hebrew words .... hope this is correct)

    what is your sense dauer of the purpose of including this dialogue with God?
     
  5. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Poh,

    Daat is knowledge. It is an intimate knowing, like someone might "know God" or "know their spouse." In this same way, a person might know a concept.

    I was actually more interested in God's monologue, his conversation with himself. I think that the inclusion of many dialogues with God goes to show a sort of shamanic strand in Judaism, where the ancestor is speaking face to face with the god, as it were, like brothers maybe, even changing God's mind, like before the destruction of Sodom which will be coming up. But the line I was interested in:

    " 17. And the Lord said, "Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am doing? 18. And Abraham will become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the world will be blessed in him. 19. For I have known him because he commands his sons and his household after him, that they should keep the way of the Lord to perform righteousness and justice, in order that the Lord bring upon Abraham that which He spoke concerning him." "

    God is, as it were, talking to Himself. This is His mind, right? What is this about? Why do we have this included? What is going on in this line?

    Dauer
     
  6. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    Interesting dauer .... I didn't really notice the nuance until you mentioned it ... my copy starts with "and the Lord had thought" .... with commentary that the verb 'amar, "say" is sometimes used elliptically for 'amar belibo, "said to himself" ...." so God is left alone for a moment to reflect on the nature of His covenantal relationship with the patriarch and what that dictates as to revealing divine intention to a human partner. Abraham is in this fashion thrust into the role of prophet, and God will so designate him in chapter 20."

    to my mind dauer.... prophets, shaman and mystics are all the same .... they are each able to communicate with the world of spirit through the internal process of moving energy upward into the mind ....we just use different names for them from different perspectives .... so there is no doubt in my mind that there is a shamanic strand in Judaism .... I have always thought this but this particular parsha and what you have pointed out is very revealing .... that's really what the Zohar is all about, it is the path of the mystic or the shaman .... you will also find this path in the ancient knowledge of the Sufi, the Gnostics, and even the Knights Templar. A lot of the knowledge is buried in the details of Solomon's Temple and the symbols .... that is one reason why I was so fascinated in the story of the "mazik" the seven headed serpent which plagued the study hall of Abayeh (Talmud on Kiddushin 29b) because the seven headed serpent is an ancient shamanic symbol .... even in the ancient culture of hawaii nei we have a seven headed serpent which represents wisdom .... and there is a Narayana, a seven headed serpent, caved on a headstone in Celon (about 2500 years old)... bb and I had a brief discussion about this before. Shamanism has nothing to do with magic, it is simply a process of enlightnment and the ability to cross between the worlds of matter and spirit and isn't what this is all about? To know God you must be able to cross over. he hawai'i au, poh
     
  7. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    I see the distinction between shamanism and mysticism being that the mystic is much more focused on the trans-rational than the pre-rational, while the shaman isn't so willing to make distinctions, but I do see a lot of overlap. Still, it seems like a shaman would more be a practitioner of magic which a straight mystic might not practice. Anyway...

    I love this dialogue pre- Sodom because it shows Avraham having power to confront God and change His mind. It's as if God and Abraham are palling around, just talking. "Eh, I was gonna destroy the city." "You know, there could be righteous people there." "Yeah, you got a point." And so on.

    There's a teaching, I think from the Dubno Maggid, that when it says righteous men in the city, of course there were righteous men in the city! But it means among the people, and they weren't among the people, they were all staying off in their studies, sequestered from the world, and because they separated themselves it is for this reason Sodom was destroyed.

    Let's look at this section:

    Chapter 19

    1. And the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom, and Lot saw and arose toward them, and he prostrated himself on his face to the ground. 2. And he said, "Behold now my lords, please turn to your servant's house and stay overnight and wash your feet, and you shall arise early and go on your way." And they said, "No, but we will stay overnight in the street." 3. And he urged them strongly, and they turned in to him, and came into his house, and he made them a feast, and he baked unleavened cakes, and they ate. 4. When they had not yet retired, and the people of the city, the people of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, the entire populace from every end[of the city]. 5. And they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, and let us be intimate with them." 6. And Lot came out to them to the entrance, and he shut the door behind him. 7. And he said, "My brethren, please do not do evil. 8. Behold now I have two daughters who were not intimate with a man. I will bring them out to you, and do to them as you see fit; only to these men do nothing, because they have come under the shadow of my roof." 9. But they said, "Back away." And they said, "This one came to sojourn, and he is judging! Now, we will deal even worse with you than with them." And they pressed hard upon the man Lot, and they drew near to break the door. 10. And the men stretched forth their hands, and they brought Lot to them to the house, and they shut the door. 11. And the men who were at the entrance of the house they struck with blindness, both small and great, and they toiled in vain to find the entrance.

    http://www.chabad.org/parshah/TorahReading.asp?AID=9170
     
  8. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    dauer - I'm very interested in knowing how many "gates" there are .... are these the 12 gates of which one is the city of sodom .... if the "righteous" are already protected within the city, then this story tells us that those that are not righteous cannot enter the gate .... "and the men who were at the entrance of the house they struck with blindness, both small and great, and they toiled in vain to find the entrance" .... the big lesson coming up I suppose is that those that are righteous will also take care of the poor and if they do not they cannot ascend and open any gate .... so this appears to be a precursor to this concept of what it means to be righteous ....

    when someone comes "under the shadow of your roof" they have basically entered your home and your are obliged to shelter and protect them .... this is a place of refuge and their safety is paramont .... also you can look at it as having already entered a "gate" (therefore they are are under the shadow of your roof, or head) and are in that place of refuge from which no one can harm you .... in this case we are speaking of the temple build not with human hands .... I know it gets a little confusing because I shift from both inner and outer interpretations ....

    I have to tell you that this whole section reminds me of how even in hawaiian culture the interpretation of relationships between brother and sister, etc. has run amouk .... the spiralling energy within the human body has both male and female essences, and the marriages or merging of energies is related to an internal process .... that is why so many of the references to the ancient ones that came (like the 12 alaneo in hawaii) are that they were somewhat androgeneous (both female and male) .... so when we speak of the marriage of male and female energies, it is an internal process on the spiritual path .... it is a external process on the material path .... when the ali'i (kings and queens) decided that they alone were the "chosen ones" we had this strange sexual relationships of brother and sister that took place in a special enclosed structure so that the child born would be of the royal line .... but the symbols are all about the enclosed structure in the brain and the merging of the male and female essences within the body .... but it seems we lost this knowledge somewhere alone the way and it was usurped by the priests and the royality .... so when I read all of this I keep thinking, here we go again .... what does all of this really mean about the virgin daughters .... we interpret with an external world view, but the meaning may be something very different .... at least this is how I see it .... he hawai'i au, poh
     
  9. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    I'm not sure I understand how you're relating the giving of the daughters in place of the guests, and the demand for the messengers. At this point that is all that they are called, messengers. We don't get other descriptions of angels (which comes from angelos or messenger) until later, like any suggestion of androgyny.

    I guess I'm just thrown personally by the giving of the daughters in place of the messengers. I can tell myself that in that society women and children were property, and so he was giving up property in place of his guests. But why were the guests being demanded in the first place? I could say that this is just to show that Sodom is corrupt, but I think that answer is too simplistic. I should go see what the Isbitzer says. I think I'll do that later, or maybe tomorrow.

    Dauer
     
  10. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    I'm thrown by the same thing and I just have to think that this is a symbol of something that is not so obvious .... I was trying to relate the part of giving of the daughters as perhaps something related to the internal energy merging .... but that may be pushing it too far. I don't think it was just that Sodom was corrupt, in that respect I agree with you .... I just keep thinking that this is really a symbol of something deeper in meaning .... but I could be wrong, maybe I'm trying too hard not to think that the Torah could really mean this .... let me know what you find out, I'm going to do a little more searching myself .... aloha nui, poh p.s. maybe bb could add some thoughts here .... he always has an interesting perspective
     
  11. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Haven't checked on it yet, but another thought. Lot is Abraham's heel. Compare this incident with the way Abraham handled guests. Or look at what Lot does later.

    I checked the mei hashiloach. No comment on this verse.

    Dauer
     
  12. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    I think you are right about Lot being Avraham's heel .... here is something I found at another site, I'm not posting the whole piece, but primarily the part about Sodom and that it was illegal to invite guests in .... poh









    [font=Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, serif][size=+2]Vayeira[/size][/font] [size=-1](Genesis 18-22)[/size]
    Be A Giver


    [font=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Abraham is on a mission to teach the world about God. But God is an infinite force Who encompasses everything and lacks nothing! He doesn't get tired, thirsty, restless or cold. So how can He possibly be described?

    The answer is found in what motivated God to create the world in the first place. He wasn't lonely. He wasn't bored. And it wasn't a science experiment. But God did lack one thing, so to speak. He lacked someone outside of Himself to nurture and bestow kindness upon. Thus the attribute of "giving" is the most essential thing we can say about God!



    * * *



    THE BASIS OF IT ALL

    Giving is the foundation of any relationship. When two people are focused on giving to one another, then the relationship flows in two directions - connecting, linking and forging the bond. But when the focus is on taking, then the dynamic pulls in opposite directions - creating strain and tension.

    This is illustrated later in our Parsha with the story of Sodom. What was the terrible sin that caused this city to be destroyed? The Talmud (Sanhedrin 109) says that in Sodom it was illegal to welcome strangers. For example, one Sodomite woman who gave bread to a poor person was punished by publicly being covered with honey and devoured by bees.

    Geographically, Sodom is located next to the Dead Sea. In Israel, there are two seas connected by the Jordan River: The Sea of Galilee in the north, and the Dead Sea in the south. Since the Dead Sea is the lowest point on planet Earth (396 meters below sea level), water flows in, but no water ever flows out. This inability to "give" is why it's called the Dead Sea.

    When God sends a sulfur rainstorm to annihilate Sodom (Genesis 18:24), in a way the city had already been destroyed. Because any society that eschews giving is on a path to self-destruction.



    * * *

    MAKING IT REAL

    Practically speaking, how do I become a "giver?" The answer is simple: Start giving. Some people say, "I can only give to someone I love." This is incorrect. The Hebrew word for "give" - hav, is the same root as ahava, which means "love." Giving is what leads to love. When I give, I invest a part of myself, making you more precious to me. This is why parents love their children most of all; it is their greatest investment.



    Shabbat Shalom,
    Rabbi Shraga Simmons


    </SPAN>
    [/font]
     
  13. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Okay. So according to the gemara it was illegal to invite guests in. That's one way of solving the problem, if the gemara is accepted as accurate. Let's move on to Lot and his daughters after the destruction.

    "29. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and He sent Lot out of the midst of the destruction when He overturned the cities in which Lot had dwelt. 30. And Lot went up from Zoar, and he dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters were with him, for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar; so he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31. And the elder said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man on earth to come upon us, as is the custom of all the earth. 32. Come, let us give our father wine to drink, and let us lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father." 33. And they gave their father wine to drink on that night, and the elder came and lay with her father, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up. 34. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the elder said to the younger, "Behold, last night I lay with my father. Let us give him wine to drink tonight too, and come, lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father." 35. So they gave their father to drink on that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up. 36. And Lot's two daughters conceived from their father. 37. And the elder bore a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of Moab until this day. 38. And the younger, she too bore a son, and she named him Ben-ami; he is the father of the children of Ammon until this day."
     
  14. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    actually this section on one level seems pretty straight forward .... the daughters wanted to keep the family line going and were willing to ply their father with wine so that he would not remember what happened .... they were in a place where no man could be with them.....

    which brings me to another level of the story .... when they go to the high country and reside in a cave, symbolically they have entered the center of the brain through meditation .... no man could be with them because they are in another world so to speak ....the male and female energies within the body must merge and spiral to enter this place .... so Lot and his daughters simply symbolize these energies ....

    in hawaiian legends the goddess pele (of the volcanoe) goes into a deep sleep and then she travels to the island of Kauai .... there she finds her sister with her (Pele's) lover .... and the story proceeds .... but the symbolism of the story is that Pele goes into a trance or deep meditative state and when she travels to the island of Kauai, she has moved the energies into the third eye area because the island of Kauai is the 6th island in the chain of 7 .... it would represent the 6th energy center of the body ....

    aloha nui, poh
     
  15. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    One traditional Jewish answer would be that the daughters were not guilty. They thought the world was going to end because they saw the destruction of Sodom and were now living in a cave. But Lot was guilty. Not for the first night, because they got him drunk, but for the second, because in the morning he would have known better.

    When I look at this, I see some bad-mouthing of the Moabites and Ammonites, and maybe a much older story as well. Moving along:

    "Chapter 21

    1. And the Lord remembered Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as He had spoken. 2. And Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3. And Abraham named his son who had been born to him, whom Sarah had borne to him, Isaac."

    What other figures, from any tradition, have children despite infertility or old age or virginity or some other complication? Please don't be shy to post. You don't have to commit yourself to always taking part. You can come and go as you please.

    Dauer
     
  16. Bandit

    Bandit New Member

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    sorry guys & gals. i just have not been in the religious mode much lately. trying to follow & all, but have other things on my mind.

    we just did this at a bible study at church & it was kind of left in the air. (time permitting) i have always felt the Lot/sodom story was kind of weird- especially the faTHER & DAUGHTer part.
     
  17. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    I enjoy taking part in this Dauer .... and welcome back Bandit, I have missed you .... well.....there are so many strange relationships and births in the hawaiian chants (all with meaning, but nevertheless strange) .... there is one part in the chant of creation about the woman who bore children through the brain .... it is the form changing goddess Haumea who has a brood of offspring first to the god Kanaloa and then to her own descendants .... the name ha(na)u-mea "sacred birth" (the goddess Haumea) ,,,, she also sleeps with her children and grandchildren .... and she can change her shape from aged to youth ....and there is the story of Wakea and his desire for his youthful daughter .... and the story of Haloa, the first living child born to Wakea, some said by his own daughter and named from the long stalk of the taro plant that grew from the body of an earlier embryo child buried beside the house ....and while all of these sound a little strange,they are symbols with other meanings ....


    I also read a Lakota (Native American) story about two women who are transported to the star world and two stars become their husbands, they become pregnant .... they are wanred not to dig any wild turnips .... but eventually one does and when she pulls out the turnip, a hole opens in the star world and see is able to look down on her old world .... she is homesick and braids turnips to make a rope .... but the braid is too short and she doesn't reach the earth and falls .... the crash kills her, but her baby is born and raised by a meadowlark .... the baby named "Fallen Star" plays an important part in the placement of the seven stars of the Pleaides (seven little girls)

    these are not necessarily births by a woman who is past child bearing age but they are examples of the importance of birth and its symbolism in other cultures .... most cultures that I have studied have some legend or story connected with birth that is certainly not conventional....

    I just have a hard time looking at any of this in a literal sense .... for a woman to bear a child at 90 years old or 100 just doesn't make sense on a literal level .... it has got to be a metaphor for something else .... I also suspect the meaning is buried in the original words and sounds which cannot be seen in the English translation .... passages like the "wilderness of Beersheba" where the word Beersheba where be'er means 'well' and sheba is either an 'oath' or the 'number seven' (which is a sacred number) .... I cannot read Hebrew so I am very limited in how deeply I can read the passages .... anyway I will leave this one here and hope that there are some other postings with different views on all of this .... aloha nui, poh
     
  18. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    Poh,

    didn't Zeus also bear a child from his head?

    Also, have you noticed how the ages were largest at the start of the Torah, and gradually they are getting shorter? I think that maybe this could suggest an ancient and timeless time when a moment seemed like forever, but now time passes by more quickly. And this is true for the individual too to some extent. So maybe Sarah gave birth to Isaac while people were still somewhat in a timeless time, before they had completely felt the loss of their animal-mind, if it can be called that, or maybe God-mind, although that is something else.

    And Moshe, who lived in a not timeless time, was able to be in that timeless-time as he lived to 120.

    Dauer
     
  19. pohaikawahine

    pohaikawahine Elder Member

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    I had not noticed the shortening of time before .... a very interesting thought dauer .... it is very possible that when one has entered the place of sanctuary they are in a timeless place, the void .... as I look at all of this along with your thoughts, what we may be talking about are "sacred births" (such as the name of Haumea) and a sacred birth is not necessarily the birth of a child (although the child could be a symbol of a sacred birth) ... a sacred birth could also be related to transformation of consciousness, rebirth of a soul.... etc.... it could be the seed of thought that is nurtured and then blooms into full awakening .... aloha nui, poh
     
  20. dauer

    dauer Active Member

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    But what does that all have to do with laughter?
     

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