In this week’s parsha we find Avraham Avinu recovering from his bris milah. But we do not find him indoors stretched out on a recliner, rather the passuk says, “Vehu yosheaiv pesach ha’ohel kechom hayom”- ”He was sitting at the entrance to his tent at the heat of the day” (Beraishis, 18:1). You see, Avraham’s life’s work was doing acts of chessed and with it sharing with one-and-all his knowledge of the Ribbono Shel Olam. And though on that day he was in considerable discomfort, he lovingly dragged himself to the entrance of his tent and sat out in the heat of the day looking for wayfarers to whom he could offer some respite and shade. Hashem, initially, had not wanted Avraham to be bothered with guests, so He made it extremely hot outside to the degree that it was nearly impossible to be walking around. But then, sensing Avraham’s urge for guests, He arranged that (the) three angels (who were coming to visit him anyway) appear as men. Avraham spied them walking by, and ran towards them with zeal & vigor in order to offer them all types of goodies. As the passuk says, “Vayaratz likrasam mipesach ha’ohel” – “And he ran towards them from the opening of the tent”. (Ibid, 18:2). Now, it seems that the passuk here is unnecessarily telling us from whence he was running. We know from the last passuk he was at the opening of the tent and he hadn’t moved. So why does the Torah insert this obvious piece of information?
Perhaps we can say as follows: The Avos planted into their descendants their own ability to excel in certain areas. Avraham gave the world kindness, Yitzchak, a strength in service of Hashem, and Yaakov, Torah study. Others before them had also exhibited such traits, but what set apart the Avos from everyone else was their level of commitment to these ideals. They pushed the envelope and broke all boundaries in their pursuit of perfecting their areas of expertise, to the point of giving up their lives. And it was that level of commitment that made them card carrying members of The Avos. That is why we find Yitzchak on the altar about to be sacrificed, and Yaakov defying human restrictions by learning Torah non-stop for 14 years in the Yeshiva of Shem/Aiver. But what about Avraham? Where had he shown his absolute dedication to committing acts of kindness?
Well, Avraham thought he had reached that plateau when he sat himself down outside his tent (with a good view of all directions) looking for company. We know it wasn’t a balmy day in the low 70°’s with a cool zephyr blowing. As a matter of fact it was brutally hot outside. How hot you ask? Well put it this way, the hottest temperature on record in the U.S.A. was in June 1913 when the mercury hit 134° at Death Valley National Park, California. Here, though, it seems it was way hotter. As the passuk tells us it was “kechom hayom”- “like the heat of the day”. The Mizrachi explains that it was as hot as the day prophesied by the prophet Malachi (Malachi, 3:19) “Ki hinai hayom ba bo’air katanoor…” – “For behold a day will come burning hot like an oven…” [He is referring to the time when the world will have to give an accounting of its deeds, with the wicked being punished.] Yet, Avraham wanted guests, nay, he needed guests, he craved guests. And thus even though this nonagenarian was in recovery from his Bris, he sat outside on the lookout for any potential madman that might be passing by in such heat.
But when he saw the three men traipsing by, it suddenly dawned on him that he had not yet perfected his middah of gemilus Chassadim. “These guys”, he said to himself, “have got to be nuts being out on a day like this, and yet there they are in the shimmering daylight. No camel, no dromedary, no wagon either. Just walking on their own two feet. Wow, now that’s dedication.” He had no idea as to what particular venture they were dedicating themselves, frankly it made no difference. But he did learn a lesson from these men, that if one really wants to accomplish something in life it is not good enough to sit by waiting for an opportunity to come. Sometimes one has to get up, man up, and ignore the elements, and actively pursue what one is looking for. And he looked at himself just sitting by the entrance to his tent, passively looking for guests waiting for them to come to him. And he knew he could do better. So, “Vayaratz likrasam” – he got up and ran to them, and in doing so reached a new level in his pursuit of becoming a paragon of chessed. And as he was running towards the men he found he was also running away from “…pesach ha’ohel” for he had just left his previous madraiga of “sitting at the opening of the tent” and have it firmly and eternally fixed in the rear-view mirror of achievements in life.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.