Ebionite Davar Torah: Wayyera'
Shemayah Phillips

Yahweh appeared to him at the Oak of Mamre while he was sitting by the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. 2He looked up, and there he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them, and bowed to the ground. 3 "My lord," he said, "if I find favour with you, please do not pass your servant by. 4 Let me have a little water brought, and you can wash your feet and have a rest under the tree. 5 Let me fetch a little bread and you can refresh yourselves before going further, now that you have come in your servant's direction." They replied, "Do as you say." 6 Abraham hurried to the tent and said to Sarah, "Quick, knead three measures of best flour and make loaves." 7 Then, running to the herd, Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 Then taking curds, milk and the calf which had been prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree. 9"Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him. "She is in the tent," he replied. 10Then his guest said, "I shall come back to you next year, and then your wife Sarah will have a son." Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have her monthly periods. 12So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, "Now that I am past the age of childbearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again?" 13 But Yahweh asked Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?" 14Nothing is impossible for Yahweh. I shall come back to you at the same time next year and Sarah will have a son." 15Sarah said, "I did not laugh," lying because she was afraid. But he replied,"Oh yes, you did laugh."

Wayyera' from ra'ah that means "see" and a ro'eh can be either a "seer," the more archaic word for prophet (navi'), and also can refer to a vision. Did Avraham see YHWH or did YHWH manifest Himself in some way as He would later to Mosheh as a burning bush? Perhaps there is no way here to tell.

The three men, men, were received as honored guests according to the longstanding custom of hospitality. Later we will see how important this treatment of guests is as this is the head's side of the story to be compared to the tail. The guests were not worshipped, Avraham did not prostrate himself, nor did he quake in the presence of Elohim face to face. Later, perhaps reflecting another source, we are told that they are mal'akim, messengers serving YHWH, and two continue on to Sdom and one leaves. But these three were not "spirit",nor was one incomprehensible, and to have worshipped these would have meant worshipping three distinct entities sitting before Avraham. And Avraham does not present to the world a new revelation of a trinity. There was no reason to when it wasn't so.

After a nice meal of meat and milk (do heavenly beings or YHWH Himself eat?) a blessing and laughter comes. I believe the laughter was mutual. And the last laugh is lovingly had at Sarah's expense. She laughed (titshoq) quietly to herself, not daring to offend her husband's guests, and even denying it. She is rewarded with Yitshaq, a laughing boy, to remind her of the day of pleasant guests and sharing a laugh after dinner with YHWH Himself!

16From there the men set out and arrived within sight of Sodom, with Abraham accompanying them to speed them on their way.

17Now Yahweh had wondered, "Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am going to do, 18 as Abraham will become a great and powerful nation and all nations on earth will bless themselves by him? 19 For I have singled him out to command his sons and his family after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing what is upright and just, so that Yahweh can carry out for Abraham what he has promised him." 20Then Yahweh said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin is so grave, 21that I shall go down and see whether or not their actions are at all as the outcry reaching me would suggest. Then I shall know."

22While the men left there and went to Sodom, Yahweh remained in Abraham's presence. 23 Abraham stepped forward and said, "Will you really destroy the upright with the guilty? 24 Suppose there are fifty upright people in the city. Will you really destroy it? Will you not spare the place for the sake of the fifty upright in it? 25Do not think of doing such a thing: to put the upright to death with the guilty, so that upright and guilty fare alike! Is the judge of the whole world not to act justly?"

26Yahweh replied, "If I find fifty upright people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place because of them."

27Abraham spoke up and said, "It is presumptuous of me to speak to my lord, I who am dust and ashes: 28Suppose the fifty upright were five short? Would you destroy the whole city because of five?" "No," he replied, "I shall not destroy it if I find forty-five there." 29Abraham persisted and said, "Suppose there are forty to be found there?"

"I shall not do it," he replied, "for the sake of the forty."

30Abraham said, "I hope my lord will not be angry if I go on: Suppose there are only thirty to be found there?"

"I shall not do it," he replied, "if I find thirty there."

31He said, "It is presumptuous of me to speak to my lord: Suppose there are only twenty there?"

"I shall not destroy it," he replied, "for the sake of the twenty."

32He said, "I trust my lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten."

"I shall not destroy it," he replied, "for the sake of the ten."

33When he had finished talking to Abraham Yahweh went away, and Abraham returned home.

To whom was Avraham speaking? We know these beings appeared as men, as the mal'akim often do--there seem to be some of them who are very much like us, while some, like the k eruvim and serafim, are of a different form (but none having just two wings like the nike or victoria of Western and Christian mythology). Did Avraham know who they were? The word 'adonay "my lord" "m'lord" does not need to indicate divinity. Does Avraham understand the man/mal'ak to be YHWH Himself? No. It was not YHWH Himself no more than the bush of Mosheh.

The rabbinic commentators know that although 'adonay is a title Lord (my lord) it's use is more often common, just as Avraham is so called by Sarah and his servants. This passage does not sound like someone talking to YHWH, creator of the Universe, "in the flesh" standing before him. Indeed, it was "YHWH" who remained standing before Avraham. The Masoretic Text has replaced this with "Avraham remained standing in the presence of YHWH" but duly noted as a tiqqun soferim (scribal emendation or correction). They thought it impertinent to have YHWH "stand before" Avraham as if the King of the Universe could wait upon a man. Avraham, as I said, does not speak well to "YHWH."

When Avraham is told what is to happen,he responds (v.25), Halilah!! Profane!! and the word halal and its derivatives have meanings of profane, common, unclean, defiled. This is a strong, almost contemptuous protest verging on the edge of cursing as we might say, "Damn!!"   A more literal translation would be, "Damn!! Would you do a thing like this, kill righteous with wicked; indeed, righteous being the same as wicked?! Damn!! You who judges all the earth---will he not do justice!!? Avraham has certainly gotten over his terror from his last encounter when he trembled with dread and fell into a trance when he "cut a covenant" between the butchered animals not long before. Was he now "kicking back," "doing lunch," and feeling familiar enough with YHWH to reprimand Him!?

The rabbinic commentator, Rav Shmu'el ben Meir (RaSHBa"M) often differed from his grandfather, Rashi, and often took the peshat (simple, more literal) interpretation of scripture. He believed that this being was not YHWH but instead the Mal'ak YHWH, the heavenly messenger of YHWH (which is also known as the Davar YHWH -word/spokesman of YHWH). Not long before the Mal'ak YHWH had appeared to Hagar also. This time he is accompanied by two messengers of destruction. So it is YHWH's message that is heard, but an "angelic" non-human being is standing before Avraham, submitting himself to Avraham's outburst and clever pleading. (It might be worth noting here that this angel with the appearance of man did not have a human mother, and the man Yahshua born to a woman was not an angelic being.) I do not believe Avraham ever thought he was speaking to YHWH face to face.

19When the two angels reached Sodom in the evening, Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom. As soon as Lot saw them, he stood up to greet them, and bowed to the ground. 2 "My lords," he said, "please come down to your servant's house to stay the night and wash your feet. Then you can make an early start on your journey." "No," they said, "we shall spend the night in the square." 3 But he pressed them so much that they went home with him and entered his house.

He prepared a meal for them, baking unleavened bread, and they had supper. 4They had not gone to bed when the house was surrounded by the townspeople, themen of Sodom both young and old, all the people without exception. 5 Calling out to Lot they said, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Send them out to us so that we can have intercourse with them."

6Lotcame out to them at the door and, having shut the door behind him, 7 said, "Please, brothers, do not be wicked. 8Look, I have two daughters who are virgins. I am ready to send them out to you,for you to treat as you please, but do nothing to these men since they are now under the protection of my roof."

9But they retorted, "Stand back! This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge. Now we shall treat you worse than them." Then they forced Lot back and moved forward to break down the door. 10 But the men reached out, pulled Lot back into the house with them, and shut the door. 11And they dazzled those who were at the door of the house, one and all, with a blinding light, so that they could not find the doorway.

12The men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Your sons, your daughters and all your people in the city, take them away, 13for we are about to destroy this place, since the outcry to Yahweh against those in it has grown so loud that Yahweh has sent us to destroy it."

14So Lot went off and spoke to his future sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters. "On your feet!" he said, "Leave this place, for Yahweh is about to destroy the city." But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15When dawn broke the angels urged Lot on, "To your feet! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city." 16And as he hesitated, the men seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters---Yahweh being merciful to him---and led him out and left him outside the city. 17When they had brought him outside, he was told, "Flee for your life. Do not look behind you or stop anywhere on the plain. Flee to the hills or you will be swept away." 18"Oh no, my lord!" Lot said to them, 19"You have already been very good to your servant and shown me even greater loveby saving my life, but I cannot flee to the hills, or disaster will overtake me and I shall die. 20That town over there is near enough to flee to, and is small. Let me flee there---afterall it is only a small place---and so survive." 21 He replied, "I grant you this favour too, and will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 Hurry, flee to that one, for I cannot do anything until you reach it." That is why the town is named Zoar.

23The sun rose over the horizon just as Lot was entering Zoar. 24 Then Yahweh rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire of his own sending. 25He overthrew those cities and the whole plain, with all the people living in the cities and everything that grew there. 26 But Lot's wife looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

27Next morning, Abraham hurried to the place where he had stood before Yahweh, 28 and looking towards Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole area of the plain, he saw the smoke rising from the ground like smoke from a furnace. 29Thus it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he did not forget Abraham and he rescued Lot from the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities where Lot was living.

The two subordinate angels (who admit that they cannot "do anything" until Lot reached insignificant Tso`ar as Avraham had been promised Lot would be rescued) were also greeted and offered hospitality by Avraham's nephew. So important were these unknown guests that Lot offered his own daughters to the crowds of men instead of letting them take the visitors. But the men of Sdom wanted the men instead to "know them" sexually.

Homosexuality is a filthy perversion and against man and YHWH. But it is also an act against normative sexuality and standards, an act of both rebellion and domination. There is always the partner that must assume a subservient or submissive role.

But what was the sins of Sdom and`Amorah? Although perversion of this sort falls under rebellion against nature and YHWH's Torah, Sdom's sin was more than rebelliousness against creation.

The crime of your sister Sodom was pride, gluttony, calm complacency; such were hers and her daughters'crimes. They never helped the poor and needy; 50they were proud, and engaged in loathsome practices before me, and so I swept them away as you have seen. [Ezk 16.49]

The people of Sdom had grown affluent, serving only themselves and their desires. They had forgotten others except for how they might bring them pleasure and opportunity. They became humanists, without absolute standards of good behaviour or justice. Everyone was a potential victim. The world revolved around themselves and they became their own measure to understand life. In such a world homosexuality, sexual perversion, anything that will bring an ejaculation is good; anything that puts you on top is good.

Sexual perversion was only a subsetof an overriding perversion of good and justice. They no longer cared about the poor and disenfranchised. Perhaps these poor were seen as lazy bums, welfare parasites, indigents who could be discounted and victimized. Lot was a foriegner, an immigrant, and the visitors aliens there to enjoy the prosperity of Sdom without having anything in return. Unlike the models of hospitality to perfect strangers provided by Avraham and then Lot in the stories, the men of Sdom feel they are entitled of whatever they wish without limit. They even pervert hospitality, a concept that is cherished in the ancient and modern near east. And this literally shows that to victimize innocent men, poor, powerless, needy creations and images of YHWH may indeed be that same as working to offend and victimize YHWH also.

We too often emphasize the sexual in our society, even in condemning the unseemly side. Sexual perversion is not a good thing. But perhaps our view of social responsibility, of capitalistic priority, situation ethics, imagined importance, and financial ascendance is just as perverse. Victimization is wrong however it manifests itself. Sdom and 'Amorah were destroyed for the things our society seems to be built upon.

How do we flee from Sdom, and behind what mountain can we hide?

"Let there be no man or woman of you, no clan or tribe, whose heart turns away from Yahweh your God today, to go and serve the gods of these nations. Among you let there be no root which bears poison or wormwood. 18If, after hearing this imprecation, anyone, blessing himself, should say inhis heart, "I shall do well enough if I follow the dictates of my heart; much water drives away thirst,"19Yahweh will not pardon him. The wrath and jealousy of Yahweh will blaze against such a person; every curse written in this book will fall on him, and Yahweh will blot his name out under heaven.20Yahweh will single him out of all the tribes of Israel for misfortune, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in the book of this Law.

21"The future generation, that of your children coming after you, and the foreigner arriving from some far-away land, on seeing the plagues and diseases inflictedon this country by Yahweh, will exclaim, 22"Sulphur! Salt!---The whole country is burning! No one will sow, nothing grow, no vegetation spring ever again! Devastation like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, devastated by Yahweh in his furious wrath!" 23And all the nations will exclaim, "Why has Yahweh treated this country like this? Why this great blaze of anger?" 24"And people will say, "Because they deserted the covenant of Yahweh, God of their ancestors, the covenant which he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt; 25because they went and served other gods and worshipped them, gods hitherto unknown to them, gods that were no part of their heritage from him: 26this is why Yahweh's anger has blazed against this country, afflicting it withall the curses written in this book. 27 In anger, infury, in fierce wrath, Yahweh has torn them from their own country and flung them into another country, where they are today." 28Things hidden belong to Yahweh our God, but things revealed are ours and our children's for ever, so that we can put all the words of this Law into practice."

30 "And when all these words have come true for you---the blessing and the curse, which I have offered you---if you meditate on them in your heart wherever among the nations Yahweh your God has driven you, 2 if you return to Yahweh your God, if with all your heart and with all your soul you obey his voice, you and your children, in everything that I am laying down for you today, 3 then Yahweh your God will bring back your captives, he will have pity on you and gather you back from all the peoples among whom Yahweh your God has scattered you. 4Should you have been banished to the very sky's end, Yahweh your God will gather you again even from there, will come there to reclaim you 5 and bring you back to the country which belonged to your ancestors, so that you may possess it in your turn, and be made prosperous there and more numerous than your ancestors. 6"Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants,so that you will love Yahweh your God with all your heart and soul, andso will live. 7Yahweh your God will make all these curses recoil on your foes and on your enemies who have persecuted you. 8And once again you will obey the voice of Yahweh your God and you will put all his commandments into practice, which I am laying down for you today. 9Yahweh your God will make you prosper in all your labours, in the offspring of your body, in the yield of your cattle and in the yield of your soil. For once again Yahweh will delight in your prosperity as he used to take delight in the prosperity of your ancestors, 10if you obey the voice of Yahweh your God, by keeping his commandments and decrees written in the book of this Law, and if you return to Yahweh your God with all your heart and soul. 11"For this Law which I am laying down for you today is neither obscure for you nor beyond your reach. 12It is not in heaven, so that you need to wonder, "Who will go up to heaven for us and bring it down to us, so that we can hear and practise it?" 13Nor is it beyond the seas, so that you need to wonder, "Who will cross theseas for us and bring it back to us, so that we can hear and practise it?" 14No, the word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to put into practice. [Dt 29ff]

So again we are back to choices. We can be like Avraham, or like Sdom.

Shabbat Shalom,