It’s not often that one receives such diverse company on a single day. But if you’re Abraham, anything can happen. The portion begins this week as Abraham is sitting outside his tent, three days after his circumcision, on a boiling hot day. He is visited by none other than the Divine Presence. In the middle of the conversation, Abraham looks up. He spots three Arab nomads meandering, in the intense heat in his direction. Imagine yourself. You are recuperating from an operation that most males receive 99 years prior, you are in the middle of a conversation with G-d Al-mighty, and three Arabs happen to pass within shouting distance of your tent. We all know what we would and would not do. Let us analyze what Abraham does, and how he does it.
The Torah tell us, “and he (Abraham) said, ‘My Master, if I find favor in your eyes, do not pass over your servant.’ ” The Torah is unclear. Who was Abraham referring to when he said “My Master?” Is he telling G-d not to withdraw His presence as he invites some nomads, or was he respectfully interrupting his conversation with G-d as he shouts to the wayfarers, “Don’t leave me, I’ll be with you as soon as I finish this conversation with G-d?”
It is quite hard to believe, but these two ideas are Talmudic opinions! I understand how the Talmud can argue about a tree — was it a willow tree or an apple tree? After all the difference is not consequential. Was the window situated in Noah’s ark an actual pane of glass or a sparkling jewel that allowed for a brilliant shine? The opinions in those instances are diverse yet compatible. But the schism in opinions, whether “My Master” is referring to G-d Himself or the leader of a band of Arab shleppers, is too wide to fathom!
What is more troubling is how is it possible to say that Abraham actually paused during a conversation with G-d to tell a few Arab nomads to wait untill he is ready?
Rabbi Isser Zalman Melzer was once sitting with a group of students when suddenly one of them looked out the window and announced that one of Israel’s leading Torah scholars was coming toward the home.
Rav Melzer quickly prepared his modest Jerusalem apartment to greet the honored guest. The table was bedecked with a freshly laundered, tablecloth adorned with a bowl of fruit, in honor of the distinguished visitor. Rabbi Melzer changed into his Shabbos attire so as to show his respect.
Suddenly there was a knock. Reb Isser Zalman rushed to the door to greet the honored guest. However there was no Rav at the door. In his stead, stood a simple poor Jew who needed a letter of approbation in order to raise funds. He appeared from the distance like the scholar, but obviously the student was mistaken. To the surprise of his wife, and even more so the visitor himself, Rav Melzer ushered the poor man into his dining room. He proceeded to seat him at the head of the table, converse with him, feed him, and give him the respect he would have afforded a revered guest. After discussing the man’s needs, he wrote a letter full of complimentary descriptions regarding the man and his situation.
After the old man had left, Reb Isser Zalman commented, “who really knows how to evaluate and differentiate the value of people. Perhaps this is the way one must treat every Jew. I was happy to channel my enthusiastic expectations of the Rabbi’s visit toward this simple Jew.”
Avrohom knew that there is a Mitzvah to love Hashem, but he also knew that G-d created man in His image. Perhaps it can be an acceptable argument amongst our sages, which Master was told “please wait?” Was it the actual Master of the universe, or the master that was created in the image of the ultimate Master? Perhaps one of the ways that Avrohom manifested his great love for Hashem was through his actions toward his fellow human-being. And believe it or not, the Master waited.
Dedicated by Pearl and Jeffrey Ratz
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Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.