Aliya Summary: Avram requested a sign from G‑d that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan. G‑d responded in the famous “Covenant Between the Parts.” Avram and the Divine Presence passed between an assortment of halved animals, and G‑d told Avram that his descendants would be exiled and in bondage for four hundred years. At the conclusion of this period, Avram’s descendants would leave with great wealth, G‑d would punish the nations which enslaved them, and Avram’s children would inherit the lands of Canaan. Following this pact, Sarai — seeing that she and Avram were still childless — suggested that Avram father a child with her Egyptian maid, Hagar. Hagar conceived and began to mistreat her mistress Sarai, who responded with a heavy hand, prompting Hagar to flee. Hagar encountered an angel who encouraged her to return to Sarai, promising her that the child she will bear will become a great nation. She obeyed, and gave birth to Ishmael. At the very end of this section, G‑d added the letter hey to Avram’s name, making it “Avraham.”
This Aliya features classic struggles. Sara struggles with her shortcoming when her handmaid, Hagar, gives birth before her, and drives Hagar to flee (and return at the behest of G-d). Avraham struggles with is feelings of inadequacy when he finds out that he’s not perfect in G-d’s eyes because he isn’t circumcised (he fixes that right away). It’s very telling that Avraham gets his name “improved” before Sara does, probably as a subtle lesson to Sara for not dealing with her issues appropriately.