Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman
Knowing Our Place
This week’s parsha, Yayera, includes the story of the destruction of Sodom. Avrohom, the story’s protagonist, teaches us two very important lessons. When Avrohom learns Hashem’s plans for Sodom, he pleads with Him to save the city, a corrupt and immoral society. These actions teach us the importance of compassion. Although, the lifestyle of the inhabitants of Sodom is the antithesis of his own, Avrohom still pleads to G-d on their behalf. He despises their actions but not the people themselves. Avrohom understands his place and shows tremendous inner strength to pray on behalf of his spiritual enemies. As the parsha continues, Avrohom shov lmkomo,returns to his place, after Sodom is destroyed. The Talmud gleans from this phrase that Avrohom has a set place for prayer.
Avrohom’s set place for prayer takes on a significant meaning later on in the Torah, when Bilam, an enemy of the Jewish people, attempts to curse the Jews through prayer. When his prayers are not answered, he keeps switching the place where he prays in hopes of being successful. Bilam’s actions illustrate that he has the wrong attitude towards prayer. He is so arrogant and impressed with his own power that he assumes he can change Hashem’s mind and thinks that if he prays at another place, his prayers will be answered. As we know, it is true that sincere prayer can alter events, but even when that occurs, we need to realize that we are not in control of that happening. Ultimately, G-d decides what will or will not happen.
Avrohom’s act of returning to his place demonstrates the second lesson. His behavior exhibits that we need to return to our place no matter what response we receive regarding our own prayers. Avrohom taught us a lesson in humility when he returns to his place. He accepts Hashem’s decisions and moves on.
As the children of Avrohom, we are asked to maximize our potential to help others as well as ourselves. Sometimes it may seem at that moment, our prayers are answered and sometimes they are not. However, what is important to remember is, regardless of the perceived result, we should not be deterred from returning to our place and to continue to move forward.