God appears to Abraham in the form of three angels who visit him as he is recuperating from his circumcision. The circumcision might be bad, but the visit it s good. Abraham plays the role of a great host by providing hospitality to the strangers despite the fact that he has not yet fully healed. This is good.
Abraham is given the joyous, if somewhat unbelievable, news that despite their advanced age, within a year, he and Sarah will have a child. This is good. Sarah laughs a sarcastic laugh, which is bad.
Abraham is then given the horrific news that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. This is bad. Abraham argues for God to rescind the edict, which is good. But his attempt fails because the inhabitants of the city cannot even meet the lowest standard of morality and kindness. This is bad.
Angels enter Sodom and are shown generous hospitality by Lot, which is good. However, all of the other inhabitants of the city seek to rape and do harm to the Angels, which is bad. Lot seeks to protect the angels from the mob, which is good. But he does so by offering his unmarried daughters for the pleasure of the unruly mob, which is bad.
The cities are destroyed, which is bad. But Lot and his family are saved, which is good. However, Lots wife looks back at the burning cities and turns into a pillar of salt. This is bad.
Lot and his daughters are saved, which is good. But the daughters, thinking the world has ended, get their father drunk in order to have relations with him and then are impregnated by him. This is bad.
Abraham is treated well by Abimelech, which is good. But he offers Sarah to Abimelech saying that she is his sister, which is bad. God threatens to harm Abimelech, which is bad. But Abimelech never touched Sarah and avoids God's wrath, which is good.
Sarah gets pregnant and gives birth to Isaac, which is good. But Sarah sees Ishmael mistreating Isaac and demands that Abraham ban Ishmael and Hagar to the desert, which is bad. Abraham bans them, which is bad. But God takes note and makes a nation out of Ishmael, which, in theory, is good.
Abimelech's servants seized Abraham's well, which is bad. But Abimelech and Abraham make a pact that acknowledges that the well is Abraham's. This is good.
God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, which is bad. Abraham agrees to sacrifice Isaac which, depending on how you interpret it, may be good or bad. God does not allow the sacrifice to take place, which is good. Abraham leaves the sight of the attempted sacrifice without Isaac. This is bad.
Why have I gone through this exercise? Whether you read Torah as metaphor or as an accurate report of historical events, it has the goal of teaching lessons. Life is not static. Our lives are not static. There are highs and lows. There is good and bad. There is joy and sorrow. Sometimes we need to pull back and recognize this.
On some level one might call this unavoidable reality: "Living a life". However, there may be a slightly different way to view it. It comes in the Text itself. When God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the Text tells us that God is "testing" Abraham.
Perhaps everything, the good and the bad, is a test. Maybe it is our reaction to the stimuli around us that makes a difference. Do we gloat when good happens? Do we mope when bad happens? When good happens do we positively share our bounty? When bad happens do we blame and turn violent?
Whether it is to the good or the bad, our reactions are recorded; God, and/or the world around us notice them. Respond with humility, kindness, love, dignity, and compassion.
Shabbat Shalom - Rabbi Michael S. Jay