Rabbi Reuven Mann

This week's parsha, Vayera, begins with Avraham receiving a Revelation from Hashem.  According to the Rabbis this occurred on the third day after his Brit Milah and was a gesture of Bikkur Cholim from the Creator.  This basis of our ethical code is not mundane "humanitarianism" but a resolve to emulate the ways of G-d.  Hashem visits and comforts the sick and, thus, demonstrates for us the significance of this mitzvah.  This should inspire us and remind us of the great importance of tending to the needs of those who are ill.  It is not only the patient we are helping when we pay him a call.  We are also elevating ourselves by modeling our behavior in accordance with the "attributes" of Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

However, something strange happens in the course of Hashem's visit.  During his conversation with G-d, Avraham spots three "travelers" going by.  He then pleads with G-d not "to depart" until he has extended hospitality to the unexpected guests.  Avraham then leaves Hashem "waiting" while he provides the strangers with shade, water and a generous meal.  On the surface this behavior is extremely puzzling.  Welcoming guests is a great mitzvah.  However, one should have his priorities in order.  Avraham had been fortunate to receive a visit from Hashem and was engaged in dialogue with Him.  Can there by any greater experience than communion with the Divine presence?  Was it not unthinking, or even disrespectful of Avraham to interrupt the conversation in order to tend to the needs of strangers?  The Rabbis address this issue and establish an important principle i.e.  "Greater is the welcoming of guests than greeting the Divine presence."  If one were to choose between "conversing with G-d" and tending to those in need he should do the latter first.  The lesson being taught here is very significant.  One's relationship to G-d cannot be separated from his treatment of His creatures.  One who has disdain for others but is exceedingly scrupulous in his personal religious duties such as prayer and ritual is not relating to Hashem in the most appropriate manner.  If one truly "loves" Hashem he must nurture a genuine concern and compassion for all who were created in His Image.  When one helps others and improves them as human beings he affirms the Tzelem Elokim (Divine Image) and honors it.  This constitutes the most exalted service of G-d.  Our parsha contains a very important teaching.  We must always remember that every human being is created "Betzalmo" (His Image) and the manner in which we treat people reflects, in a profound way, the true character of our reverence for Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom