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HOSPITALITY IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

November 17th, 2016

The Torah portion of Vayeira begins with the patriarch Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent residence.

God pays him a visit, but before they can even begin a conversation Abraham spots three travelers in need of hospitality.

Without a second thought he abandons his “visitor” and begins to take care of his guests, who we know were actually angels on a mission.

The Midrash tells us that Avraham was in the midst of recovering from his circumcision, hence the visit from God.

But why would he be sitting at the entrance to his residence if he is recuperating from the Brit Milah? Why is his gentile neighbor, Mamre, mentioned in the context of the location? Why is this story of Avraham’s hospitable nature so important, that it even contains a detailed description of the menu he provided for his guests?

The entire episode is extremely puzzling, and its appearance in the Torah needs an explanation. Rabbi Dunner works through the sources to uncover the eternal message encoded in this story, and its relationship with the next narrative in the Torah, the story of Sodom’s destruction.

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