Perashat Vayera & Hosting Guests

By Rabbi Eliezer Zeytouneh Oct 30, 2017 10:45 AM Vayeira

וירא אליו ה׳ באלני ממרא והוא יושב פתח האהל כחם היום

"And Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre and he was sitting by the opening of the tent in the heat of the day"

Rashi writes that Avraham Avinu was sitting by the opening of the tent anxiously waiting for travelers in order to host them in his house. The Gemara in Shabbat (127a) writes that the Misva of hosting guests is greater than embracing the Shechina. This is derived from Avraham's reaction when seeing potential guests. The Passuk writes that Avraham told Hashem, "Hashem, if I find favor in Your eyes please do not forsake your servant." Avraham leaves Hashem and proceeds to entertain the guests.

It is possible, however, that this lesson can also be learned from the very first Passuk. We will illustrate with the following story. Joe decided to visit a close friend of his who lived 45 minutes away. As he completed his trek, Joe anxiously waited by the door as his friend Jack opened the door. Happy to see his long lost friend, Jack sat Joe down and offered his friend a drink. As he sat there, Joe noticed that Jack wasn't talking much. Jack continued to stare at his phone.

"I'm waiting for an important call," he said.

Frustrated, Joe headed for the door. "I came to visit you and you are staring at the phone," he exclaimed. 

Here too, the Passuk is telling us that Avraham was preoccupied with searching for guests even though Hashem was visiting him. The Passuk writes, "And Hashem appeared to Avraham and Avraham was sitting at the door of his tent (waiting for guests)!"

Rashi explains that Avraham Avinu wanted to stand and Hashem told him, "You sit and I'll stand. This was an allusion to the future when the Dayanim will sit in judgment and Hashem will be with them. One must wonder why Hashem told Avraham to sit. 

It is possible, as we explained previously, that Avraham was preoccupied with the Misva of הכנסת אורחים (greeting guests). He therefore stood to look for possible "customers" he would be able to host.

The Or LeSion, Hacham Ben Sion Abba Shaul, explains that before doing a Misva, one shouldn't run haphazardly. One should first think of the best way to fulfill the Misva and only then run to do it. It is possible that this is what Hashem was telling Moshe. "You sit! Think rationally about the best way to assist and I will stand, to make sure you are successful"!

We see indeed that when Avraham saw the wayfarers he did not immediately run to them. The Passuk writes וירא (and he saw) twice. Rashi explains that the first time Avraham saw that the men were coming. The second וירא however was a contemplation regarding how to serve his guests best! This lesson he learned from Hashem who told Avraham to sit (and plan)!

We can now understand the connection between this act of sitting and the judges. Judges may not adjudicate a matter in haste. They too must contemplate and weigh the case carefully and only then reach a verdict. And just as Hashem stood over Avraham to assist him, he will stand over every legitimate Bet Din!

Rabbi Eliezer Zeytouneh is the Rav of Congregation Bnei Shelomo located at 1305 Gravesend Neck Rd. He is also the Principal of Yeshivat Or Hatorah and the Dean of Peninim Sephardic Seminary. His Shiurim are attended by young adults of all backgrounds and can be heard on and Kol Halashon.