Posted on November 11, 2022 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

Hashem appeared to him…while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day. …He lifted his eyes and saw…three men were standing before him. He ran towards them…please do not pass away from your servant.[1]

Strangely, the Zohar identifies the three men as Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov. How’s that? Avraham saw himself approaching his tent, and conversed with himself?

Know this. All of the Torah has to apply to every person, at every time. Because it is eternal, it has to be read in different ways, allowing for its wisdom to reach far beyond the actors in the original narratives.

HKBH is there, present in every Jew, even in the greatest rasha. We can prove this: Chazal teach[2] that a bas kol proclaims each day, “Return, wayward sons.”[3] Although none of us can say that we hear this Heavenly voice, the gemara asserts elsewhere[4] that our guardian angels sense what we cannot see directly. The effect is that even the rasha hears an exhortation to repent every day, and must deal with it. Essentially, even the rasha entertains thoughts of teshuvah – every day!

We are ready to understand how our pesukim relate to every Jew.

“Hashem appeared to him:” Not to Avraham alone, but to “him,” – every Jew, even the worst rasha. He calls out, even when people can only hear subliminally.

“He was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day:” This creates an opening of teshuvah for him. Hopefully, he will nurture it, and turn it into the heat and passion of full teshuvah.

“Three men were standing before him:” He becomes aware of the legacy of the three Avos, who are the Merkavah/vehicle for bringing the Shechinah to the world.[5] He runs towards them, inspired to follow their example, saying to himself, “When will my conduct reach the level of my forebears.[6]

Returning to the daily confrontation with teshuvah – surely this cannot be! The gemara states that if a person betroths a woman on the condition that he is a tzadik, the marriage ceremony is effective, even if he turns out to be a rasha. The reason, continues the gemara, is that he perhaps contemplated teshuvah – which would immediately change his status to tzadik. Now, if every person responds on some level to the daily bas kol – thereby contemplating teshuvah – we should conclude that there are no resha’im!

If only it were so! The subliminal consciousness of teshuvah, however, is not sufficient to penetrate the thick darkness in which the rasha envelops himself – a darkness so substantive that it pushes out and replaces the kedushah that formerly occupied his inner world. It takes very strong pushback to emerge from the kelipos, and the rasha usually cannot provide it.

This is illustrated in the gemara[7] about the three books that are opened in the judgment of Rosh Hashanah. The completely righteous are inscribed immediately for life; the opposite is true of the completely evil. The aveiros of the otherwise righteous one will not end his days on earth. While he may stumble at times, he will always respond to the daily call to teshuvah, and regain his equilibrium. He has enough kedushah in him to be able to process his thoughts of repentance. He can immediately be inscribed for life, because his aveiros are virtually guaranteed not to chip away at his allotted time on earth.

Similarly, the rasha has forfeited so much of his inner sanctity, that when he inevitably sins, he cannot respond to calls of teshuvah, and remains stained and tarnished by his wrong choices. Death will catch up with him.

  1. Bereishis 18:1-3
  2. Zohar, Naso 126a
  3. Yirmiyahu 3:22
  4. Megillah 3a
  5. Bereishis Rabbah 47:6
  6. Tana D’vei Eliyahu 25:2
  7. Rosh Hashanah 16b