There is a global scourge that a few are concerned with. It is an evil that separates. An evil that divides and does not allow people to approach each other, or even meet. The worst thing is that it is an evil that we drag on when we are little. Sometimes our parents pass it on to us. Sometimes our schools or the society itself promote this evil to develop and spread. And governments are not always busy looking for a cure.
I am referring to prejudice.
An evil widely spread throughout the world. For almost every existing society.
Vayera is not exactly talking about prejudice. It tells us about jealousy. A mother like Sara who in another situation had the fortitude of soul and dedication to recognize that it was impossible for her to give an offspring to her husband, Abraham, and who, in the custom of that ancient times, gives him his trusted maid, the Egyptian Hagar, to do it.
Behold, the situation changes. Adonai grants her the enormous joy of having a child at an unusual age and everything changed color. Jealousy arises, but above all, the feeling that arises is that the blood that is going to give the family a continuity, is not necessarily going to be her own. And Sarah almost demands that Abraham throw out Hagar and Ishmael; to kick his own son out of the house.
Abraham provides his second wife and son with bread and water and sends them off to the desert.
Already in it, and with the supply of water finished, it was Adonai who, in the words of the Torah, "opens Hagar's eyes and sees in the distance a well of water with which he manages to quench his son's thirst." And then we came to the moment that I wanted to share with you today.
Hagar is watching her son die of thirst. And Rashi tells us in his comment that at that precise moment the angels were watching from the heavens and shared a dialogue with the Creator.
Rashi's comment relates that they were accusing Ishmael at that precise moment, saying: “Is it possible that you will make a well of water appear before who will kill your children with thirst in the future? (Let us remember that it was precisely from Ishmael that the Arab people would descend). And Adonai replied: "Is Ishmael right now fair or evil?" The angels replied, "Fair." And The Creator affirmed, then that Ishmael "is judged by his present acts and not by his future actions".
If we were to reason like angels, and from our exclusive perspective, we could say that we would have avoided problems, wars, confrontations and numerous deaths, only if that well of water had never appeared.
But placing in a child everything that has not yet happened, when he is not yet guilty and when the possibility of choice could weigh over determinism, is not correct.
And yet many years later we make similar mistakes. It is difficult for us to share spaces, moments, ideas, with those whom we identify with this or that belief. With this or that ancestry. And we embed ancestral characteristics in those who, perhaps, have changed their way of thinking, or are trying to. We blame past mistakes on people who confront their fellows internally or openly without giving rise to the possibility of regret or change.
And worse still, we are guided by appearances more superficial than those mentioned, pushing away people who prove that, like us, they fight for a better world.
In truth, there is no way to achieve that better world, a healthy coexistence, if we do not eliminate the barriers that these prejudices impose on us. There is no way to get to Tikun Olam if we cannot accept the other as they are and, respecting the differences, remove all the accumulation of myths that make us see them inaccessible.
When in the beginning of the parashah we read “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had given to Abraham, who was mocking; He then said to Abraham "Throw out this slave and her son because her son will not inherit with my son, with Isaac." (Bereshit 21), the question we can ask ourselves is whether Ishmael was really mocking. If he wasn't just playing with Yitzchak like any brother plays and scoffs in the middle of that game. Or perhaps something blinded Sara and some feeling denied the possibility of her seeing clearly.
There are various interpretations about this episode of Ishmael's supposed “mockery” of Yitzchak, and many include a veil over the eyes that distorts the correct reading of what happened.
The same thing happened to Hagar, when he couldn't see the water well. If we read the story carefully, it was Adonai who opened her eyes. The well was always there, only she couldn't see it...
There is nothing deeper than feelings. It is the most precious thing we have as human beings. It is what keeps us together through the generations. That which gives us the impulse to get up every day. That which gives us the energy to continue. But they are also the most difficult veil to handle. The most difficult pulse generator to control.
They can lead us to sublime moments of joy, such as terrible anguish or impulsive behaviors that would generate consequences that we do not really want.
Let's open our eyes and remove the veil that prevents us from seeing and proceeding clearly.
Let's continue in this construction.