Vayeira by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

Vayeira (וירא)
Torah: Genesis 18:1 – 22:24
Haftarah for Ashkenazim: II Kings 4:1 – 4:37
Haftarah for Sephardim: II Kings 4:1 – 4:23



My name is Metatron; perhaps you have heard of me, perhaps not. The mysteries of the Lord God’s heaven are not common knowledge. Know, Mortal Reader, that I am at once the most majestic and powerful of God’s angels; indeed, some Kabbalistic commentators place me secondary only to Him.


One of my chief functions is to track, evaluate, and report on the missions which lesser angels undertake, by God’s command. Most angels can perform but one mission only; after that, they are annihilated, reduced to heavenly ether. This does not bother them, or me: it is the nature of being angelic that one must subjugate personal desires and objectives for the sake of the mission. Besides, we have no free will; we exist only to carry out God’s wishes.


Still, I was perturbed recently about the Three Angels, those who visited Abraham and Sarah and enjoyed a meal at their hands. (I use “enjoyed” advisedly, since we all know that angels cannot eat.) Why three? One was sent to inform the elderly couple that they were to expect the imminent arrival of a child, a son, after waiting for so many years. The second angel’s mission was to visit Lote and his family in Sodom and Gomorrah, and to rescue them. Finally, Angel Three was to destroy the sinful cities.


It was an angelic mission, no doubt about it. Orders came down to me from the Archangel Gabriel and the Supreme Angelic Council. I assembled the angels who were to carry it out—for the sake of security and confidentiality, call them One, Two, and Three:


“Gentlespirits,” I said, when they were hovering before me, eager and ready to go, “these are your orders: inform Abraham and Sarah of their impending babe. Rescue the hapless Lote and his family. And finally, destroy the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose transgressions have pierced the skies and reached the ears of the Most High. Do you understand your orders as I have given them to you?”


“Yes, Your Worship,” answered the three, in unison.


“Then you have your orders. Depart, in God’s Name, and may your missions succeed!”


“Sir!” they saluted me, and took flight.


Even after they left, I was not done with them. Part of my responsibilities includes supervising all angels while they are in the midst of carrying out their divine orders. Since my vision transcends both time and space, it was no trouble for me to do this. Peering down to Earth,  I was pleased to observe the aged Abraham rushing to fetch veal and butter for his guests—though his seeming ignorance of the Laws of Kashrut gave me pause. Still, he and Sarah were overjoyed to learn that they were to be blessed with a child: well and good.


Upon their arrival in Sodom, Lote greeted Angels Two and Three, and offered them shelter beneath his roof. This was right and proper, by the laws of hospitality—I noted that Sodom and Gomorrah’s impending doom resulted from their neglect of this simple, but basic law of society. The roiling mob of angry locals attempted to attack Lote, and my messengers smote them with temporary blindness: also an approved method of dealing with evildoers en masse.


`           I had no quarrel with that, either, nor with Abraham’s attempt to bargain with God for the lives of the hapless citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.


When Angel Three caused lightning, fire, and brimstone to come hurtling down on the cities, however, it pierced my heavenly heart to hear the cries of the inhabitants. Why had God not given them a chance? Could not Abraham, or even Lote, his disciple, have played the part that Jonah was to perform, millennia later? Could not the people of the two cities have been taught to reform and mend their ways? Their relentless destruction brought me to tears, and archangels do not normally cry.


I therefore sought an audience with the Most High—my exalted personal status gives me that privilege. Certainly, God was busy—there is always a plague or war to mitigate, or a baby’s arrival to supervise—but He has always looked kindly upon me, since I am highest of all His angelic servants, and we go back a ways, together.


“Lord,” I said, in quiet but firm tones, “why did You destroy Sodom and Gomorrah outright? Despite Abraham’s failed bargaining with You, could You not have granted them a respite in which to repent?”


A cloud darkened His usually kindly demeanor, and I saw the set of His celestial jaw. Thus he replied to me:


“Be silent, Son of Heaven! Will you usurp My reign, which extends from Earth, through heaven, and encompasses the entire Universe?  Such is My will!”


I inclined my head in obeisance, turned on my winged heel, and departed His Presence.


Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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