In addition to reviewing the Parsha of the week, it is also a most worthwhile task to gain an understanding as to why Chazal chose a particular Haftara to be attached to a particular Parsha. This job is especially difficult this week, being that Parshat Vayera is packed with wonderful stories and morals having to do with Avraham Avinu. These episodes concerning Avraham, culminating with the famous near-sacrifice of Yitzchak, are told to generation after generation as the ultimate testimony to the idea of מעשה אבות סימן לבנים. With such a Parsha, we are not as tempted to run to the Haftara for insight. However, let us digress for a moment to look at the connection that this Parsha may have to its accompanying Haftara.
Taken from Sefer Melachim II chapter 4, our Haftara discusses an episode that occurs between Elisha and a Shunamite woman. This woman provided food and a chamber for Elisha to stay in during his travels. Elisha is so overwhelmed with her hospitality that he asks her if she is in need of anything. She does not make a request. However, Elisha’s servant points out that this woman has no son. Consequently, Elisha promises that she will have a son at this time next year. This seems to be the link! In our Parsha, Hashem promises Avraham that Sarah will have a son at this time next year.
This seems all too obvious. Perhaps we can say that the link is even deeper. Towards the end of the Haftara, this boy of the Shunamite woman cries of pain in his head and then dies in his mother’s lap, a clear tragedy, deviating from the near-sacrifice of Yitzchak. Elisha eventually visits the boy and after confirming his death Elisha performs a miraculous act. Elisha begins with prayer to Hashem. Then he places his mouth to the boy’s mouth, his eyes to the boy’s eyes, and his palms to the boy’s palms. The boy’s flesh becomes warm, seemingly due to blood circulation, and he awakens. The tragedy is reversed and all is well.
If we scrutinize Elisha’s life-restoring procedure, we can see some additional connections to our Parsha. Elisha begins with prayer, just as Avraham must have been praying having just undergone a circumcision. Elisha uses his mouth. This is the mouth of Avraham as he asks for mercy for the people of Sedom and Amorah. Elisha uses his eyes. These are the eyes of Avraham as he sees the destiny and place for Akeidat Yitzchak. Elisha uses his palms. These are the palms of Avraham as he cooks for guests, even though he is the one who is in distress.
Our first parallel was the birth of a child, but it is not good enough to have children. We must be involved in other ways if we are to sustain them physically and spiritually. Prayer is crucial: we must teach our children to pray and develop their own connections to Hashem. Our youth must also be taught, by our example, how to use their mouths. The goal is always to speak with as much Nachat Ruach as possible. We must teach our youth to always see the good in people; it is far too easy to criticize one’s neighbor. Only with great care and sensitivity may one see that opportunities for Mitzvot are constantly knocking at our door. Finally, our palms, the work of our hands, should be involved with acts of Chessed as opposed to acts that only serve our own needs. Indeed, Avraham and Elisha have taught us that the survival of our people depends not only upon being together but also upon our constant love and involvement. May Hashem provide all of us with the courage, strength, and sensitivity to complete our task with success.