Sedra of the week: Vayera

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Sedra of the week: Vayera

By Rabbi Alex Chapper


There are very few people who enjoy being tested, as human nature dictates that we prefer to avoid situations that make us feel uncomfortable. However, Abraham was different – he seemed to embrace a good challenge, as he would declare: “Here I am… I’m ready” when he faced the 10 tests God presented him. His positive attitude towards those tests prompts us to re-evaluate the nature of tests in general.

Nachmanides explains that tests are the method through which God brings out a person’s latent potential to the actual, enabling them to receive reward not just for having a good heart, but also for performing a positive action. As it says in Psalms: “God tests the righteous”, because it is known that they perform God’s will and He wants to reward them. This is in contrast to those who do not listen to God.

They are not given tests as they are undeserving of the opportunity that it affords them. Clearly, Nachmanides is of the opinion that all tests in the Torah are for the ultimate good of the one being tested. An additional understanding can be gleaned from that fact that the verse “And God tested Abraham” can be better translated as “And God held up Abraham as a banner” – the Hebrew word “nes” meaning both a “test” and a “flag” or “banner”.

As it says in Psalms, “You have given a “nes” – banner – to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth.”

Just as flags are used to represent a country or an organisation and to catch our attention and send a signal, so too in this way we are able to view tests as a sign that God is present in our lives – trying to catch our attention, sending us a signal. They are a banner shouting out to us that God is interested in us and believes in us. God held up Abraham as a banner because his response was, “Here I am, I am ready”, so that we his descendants would also know how to respond.

Although it may not be possible to totally embrace challenging moments in our lives with a completely positive attitude, perhaps we can at least face rather than shy away from them. If it helps, we should keep in mind that God does not give us a test that we cannot pass and, ultimately, it is for our benefit.

• Rabbi Alex Chapper is minister of Ilford Federation Synagogue and the Children’s Rabbi

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: