Standing Still – Parshat Vayera 5777

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Some moments in life leave you stuck, standing still, unable to move forward (or in any direction for that matter). I felt a literal version of this when it was time to leave the grave after we buried my father. I was stuck. I just stood there. All I could do was stand and cry, thinking about the life we just lost, thinking or praying to God that I would find comfort and that we would be OK. It was my own thoughts and emotions that paralyzed me, froze me to the spot.

Moments like these can happen for a variety of reasons; the question is what do we do with this paralysis?

This week we read Parshat Vayera, where Abraham and Sarah contemplate the son that will be born to them in their old age. We then turn to Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham’s attempts at saving the cities. This is followed by the birth of Isaac, additional covenants, and God’s final test of Abraham’s faith with the “Binding of Isaac.”

At the beginning of the text, Abraham is sent out to Sodom and Gomorrah. The text reads, “The men went on from there to Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.” It is from this verse, according to the Babylonian Talmud, that morning prayer became a practice. Rabbinic tradition teaches that Abraham prayed when he rose early to face God. However, this doesn’t strike me as a “rise early to pray” moment. Abraham is standing, about to deliver some devastating news to a community, which to me appears more like a “stuck in his place” moment.

Abraham does regain his composure and then actually has a face-to-face with God in order to try to save the city. But that moment of pause, that moment of being stuck, was perhaps the moment that gave Abraham the presence of mind and the courage to move forward. So often we jump into action or react without thinking things through. Here, Abraham takes a moment right at the start of a situation to reflect.

Parshat Vayera reminds us of this important step in providing for ourselves clarity and confidence. Perhaps our version of standing still or “morning prayer” is that moment each day when we pause, reflect, and prepare for what lies ahead. Whatever you call it, sometimes you simply have to give in to being “stuck” before you’re able to push forward.

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