Vayashkem Avraham baboker….(Avraham arose early in the morning….)


We see this phrase used three times in this week’s parashah. Avraham rises to witness the destruction of the two corrupt cities of Sodom and Amorah (19:27), again when he divorces Hagar and sends her out of his home (21:14), and again when he takes his son, Yitzchak, to sacrifice him (22:3). 


In each of these three instances, Avraham goes out to either see or fulfill a Divine decree that pains him. Despite the painful nature of each of these three things, he rises early in the morning to either bear witness or to carry out the dreadful commandment. 


The Rabbis decided to focus not on the painful nature of each of these three Divine decrees, but on the fact that Avraham rose early to be part of something Divine. Rashi comments on 22:3 that Avraham rose early to do a mitzvah. The Talmud (Brachot 26b) refers to “vayashkem Avrahamo baboker” as we see it in 19:27 as evidence that Avraham established the Shacharit prayer said in the morning.


The Talmud’s use of the verse clearly reveals what relevance it has to an ideal Jewish religious worldview. We are required to serve God with joy, and as the Rabbis have established, “service” is done through prayer. If we are to serve God with joy through prayer, and Avraham’s rising early in the morning to witness the destruction of two cities is a precedent for praying in the morning, we learn something else about prayer. While Avraham may have risen early in the morning to witness something violent, or to act with violence against Hagar or Yitzchak, what is important for us is that he rose early to stand before God. We are also told to “rise early” to stand in acknowledgment of the Divine presence in the world, to acknowledge the sacredness and the grandness of every place and moment.


This week, the United States held elections for president, for senate, and for many state initiatives. It is easy to acknowledge that this week is a time when the course of future events will be decided. As we acknowledge that we stand at a turning point in history, we can acknowledge that human history itself is sacred and great. We can acknowledge that we stand at a grand moment in time, and that time itself is grand, and we can stand in awe and acknowledgment of the One that brings time itself into being. 


As human beings choose the people who they want to govern them, we can acknowledge the mix of intelligence and folly that guides our decisions. In acknowledging this, we fuel our blessing chonen hada’at (the one who grants knowledge) in our weekday prayer. As we hope for justice, we fuel the blessing melech ohev tzedakah umishpat (the King who loves justice and law). 


If we make a daily habit of standing in acknowledgment of the sacred, we see the world with greater appreciation and love. We learn to see kedushah (holiness), and so to treat the world with kedushah and to act with kedushah.


Whatever the outcome of this election, let us stand with acknowledgment of what we are witnessing.


Shabbat shalom!

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