This week’s parshah teaches us a tremendous lesson learned from none other than Avrohom Avinu. Healing from his bris milah, Hashem appears to Avrohom for a visit. During the discussion, three Arab guests appear and Avrohom puts Hashem “on hold” to greet his guests, which, at face value, would seem to be poor behavior on his part. Rabbi Label Lam offers an interpretation that I would like to share: The Talmud states the following principle: “It is greater to be a host to guests than to receive the Divine Presence!” (Shabbos 127a) Talk about moral audacity! On the third day after his circumcision at the age of ninety-nine years, Avrohom is sitting at the opening to his tent scanning the horizon for guests, when G-d Himself comes to visit. This can only be described as the height of the heights of human experience. It doesn’t get much better. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, in The Path of the Just, writes, “Man was only created to rejoice in Hashem and to enjoy the rays of His Divine Presence, and this is the true pleasure and the greatest delight of all the delights that one can find!” Noticing that Avrohom is more discomfited by the absence of guests than by his medical condition, Hashem provides three wanderers who are passing by. What does Avrohom do? He briefly excuses himself, putting Hashem “on hold” with the Muzak, while he busies himself feeding these three heat-stricken strangers. Wow! From here we learn that it is greater to play the host than to receive even the Divine Presence!
This principle we learn from the behavior of Avrohom Avinu! Fine! The question is: “Where did Avrohom learn it from?” I once heard the following answer to that question: The posuk says, “He saw, and he ran to greet them…” His feet went instinctively! His initial impulse, especially after the bris, was already considered correct. His perfected body was not an interposition between his G-dly soul and its desire for generous action. No! He was refined to the degree that his physical body was no less than a rubber glove worn by a skilled surgeon or the nimble fingers of a concert pianist. The intentionality of his action is easily expressed in an unimpeded fashion through the vehicle of his earthly limbs. The Nesivos Sholom discusses this concept and states that a tzaddik’s body and limbs and all their associated actions that are taken are only able to do the rotzon of Hashem. He brings a proof of this thesis from Akeidas Yitzchok, the Binding of Isaac. The posuk records concerning Avrohom, “And he sent out his hand and he took the knife to slaughter his son…” Ultimately, we know that Hashem did not want him to slaughter his son but only to be willing to deliver him. Therefore, we are told that “he sent out his hand to take the knife.” When I pick up my coffee in the morning, I don’t need to send out my hand consciously. It goes automatically because I am thirsty. But since Avrohom’s instinct was already presumed G-dly, he needed to force his hand into action.
We are fortunate to have a school and community that inherently value the middos of chessed, hachnosas orchim, bikkur cholim – and so much more – that we as children of Avrohom instinctively perform. May we continue to grow from the lessons of our Avos Hakedoshim.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman