Vayeira: What will we become the parent of?
It is possible for your parent not to be related to you.
And this applies to everyone. In Parshat Vayeira (Bereishit 18:19), Hashem pays the ultimate compliment to Avraham Avinu, Abraham our Patriarch.
“Lema’an asher yetzaveh et banav v’et beito acharav” – “He shall command his children and his household following him,”
“leshamru derech Hashem laasot tzedaka umishpat,” – “so that they will follow the way of Hashem: to practise righteousness and justice.”
There is one word which seems to be redundant. It is the word ‘acharav’ – ‘following him.’ Isn’t that obvious? I believe that this is actually the key word in this entire statement. Fascinatingly, in Bereishit 4:21, we are introduced to a man by the name of Yuval, and Yuval is described as being
“Avi kol tofes kinor veugav.” – “The father of everyone who holds a harp and a pipe.”
Yuval was the father of music! He introduced music into the world and we see he is described as ‘avi’ – ‘father.’ He’s the parent of all people who engage in musical activity, indicating that indeed somebody can be your parent, although you’re not related to them: what they have introduced influences your way of life.
Truly, that is what we mean when we refer to Avraham as being Avraham Avinu, Abraham our father. Of course we are privileged to be physically descended from him but that’s not the whole story. In addition, he introduced belief in Hashem into the world, and he went one step further. The text in Parshat Vayeira (Bereishit 18:19) tells us
“Veshamru derech Hashem laasot tzedaka umishpat.” – “So that they should keep the way of Hashem: to practice righteousness and justice.”
Avraham didn’t only ‘parent’ the concept of belief in Hashem. He ‘parented’ a concept of derech Hashem, a true religious way of life for all those who believe in Hashem, and that way of life must include tzedaka and mishpat. The legacy of Avraham therefore empowers us in our ways to always be mindful of our responsibility for tzedaka – righteousness, uprightness – to be considerate and to be compassionate at all times; and in addition, to guarantee that justice would always prevail.
And now there is a question we have to ask ourselves: What will we become the parents of?