Rabbi Israel Chait
Written by a student
Parshas Vayerah opens with these words: "And God appeared to him [Abraham] in plains of Mamre, and he sat in the tent's opening in the heat of the day. And he lifted his eyes and behold he saw three men standing against him; and he saw and he ran to greet them from the opening of the tent, and he bowed ground-ward. And he said, 'Ad-noy, if I have found favor in Your eyes, please do not pass by before Your servant'."
Why would Abraham – in the midst of a vision – interrupt this prophetic encounter with God to greet mortals? The latter would seem to be of inferior importance.
Abraham saw himself in this vision fulfilling an act of kindness. He was attending to others who possess a Tzelem Elohim – an intellect. Man can be serve God in one of two ways: 1) either directly, or 2) by showing respect to one's Tzelem Elohim. The Tzelem Elohim has as it's primary objective, the recognition of God. Thus, one who respects the intellect, as Araham did in this vision, shares the very same perfection as one in communion with God. Both acts are pursuits of God's wisdom. Therefore, Abraham served God equally – whether directly in a vision, or by attending to others who possess a Tzelem Elohim.