This week’s Torah portion is “Vayeira” (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24), and in it we read how Abraham welcomed three visitors, who were really angels, into his tent.
The Torah tells us that once Abraham saw his potential guests coming, he ran toward them to greet them and welcome them in. Oddly enough, however, the Torah says -not once, but twice – that Avraham “saw” the visitors. Why?
One explanation relates to the inevitable natural human trait of losing enthusiasm after we get used to a situation. In the case of a mitzvah (Torah commandment), the first time we do it, it’s exciting, it’s new. After awhile, however, it becomes, at best, routine. When the Bar Mitzvah boy first receives his new pair of Tefillin, the black prayer boxes worn during morning prayers, he is so excited to put them on. Are we as excited to do so when we’ve been doing it daily for 40 years?
Abraham, however, was immune from this where-does-the-enthusiasm-go problem. That’s why the Torah tells us, twice, that he “saw” the visitors. While many of us may see visitors and initially want to offer hospitality, the excitement and drive to perform the mitzvah of hospitality could wear off, even before the guests reach our homes. Abraham didn’t lose his drive – he always “saw” guests as an opportunity to do many acts of kindness, although many others would stop “seeing” the opportunity. No matter how long the guests would stay, whether hours or days, Abraham always “saw” and appreciated every minute. The excitement didn’t go away.
In a similar vein, we are told that the guests, really angels, appeared to Abraham as if they were idolatrous Ishmaelites. Even though Abraham “saw” his guests, and saw from their style of dress and conduct that they were in fact Ishmaelites, that didn’t stop him from “seeing” the opportunity to perform acts of kindness. Here we learn that we must show kindness and hospitality to all people, regardless of their religion.
We have to train ourselves to acquire these traits of Abraham: an excitement for mitzvot that doesn’t wane and a love for doing acts of kindness for all people, all the time!
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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