Parashas Vayeira

This week’s parashah begins with angels informing Avraham that his wife Sarah will bear a son. In a later section, the parashah recounts the birth of this son, Yitzchak. This section begins with the following verse (Bereishis 21:1): “Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said, and Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken.” The Midrash remarks (Bereishis Rabbah 53:1):
It was not like with those who speak and do not do. Rather (Yechezkel 17:24): “I am Hashem – I have spoken and I have done.” … When did He speak? When His agent said: “At the appointed time I shall return to you at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” And He did as He said, as it is written: “Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken.”
Here, Hashem expresses pride that He keeps His word. This is odd. Even a mortal man is expected to keep his word, and he is held in contempt if he fails to do so. What is the point, then, in Hashem’s declaring that He fulfills His word?
The point, the Maggid says, is that it is logically impossible for Hashem’s word to go unfulfilled. With Hashem, speech and action are not separate processes. Rather, when Hashem declares that something should come to be, the declaration itself makes it come to be. When the Torah states that “Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said,” it is indicating that at the very moment Hashem promised Sarah a child, He set in motion the process leading to this outcome.
Hashem accomplishes everything with a word alone. In fact, the usual rule is that the effect of Hashem’s word becomes manifest immediately. This rule does not apply, however, when a human limitation stands in the way, for Hashem prefers to minimize His tampering with human limitations. The case of Sarah’s bearing a child illustrates this point. When Hashem promised Sarah a child, His word enabled her to have a child, but she did not have the child immediately. Rather, the angel said: “At the appointed time I shall return to you at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah’s child came into being gradually, through the natural human processes of conception and pregnancy. At the appointed time, the child was born.
The Maggid links this idea to a teaching in Bereishis Rabbah 70:6 that the word v’hayah (and it shall be) signifies good tidings. The word v’hayah is a past tense verb converted to future tense by the Biblical conversive vav. The Maggid explains that this type of construction is used in discussing an occurrence that could be viewed as belonging to the past, but actually will occur only in the future. Prophecies of future blessings begin with the word v’hayah to teach a deep lesson: that from Hashem’s standpoint, the blessings could already have been delivered, and the only reason He puts them off to the future is a limitation from our side—we are not yet fit to receive them.
May we soon be worthy to receive all the blessings Hashem has waiting for us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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