Hear and Your Soul Shall Live
Insights on life from the weekly Parsha.

By: Rav Moshe Weber, Shlita, Editor: Rabbi I. Ido Weber Erlich, Shlita
Eng. Translation: Emanuel Behar, Ari Chester

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Va Yerah

One is obligated by the Torah to fulfill the Mitzvah of “Hospitality to Guests and Strangers.”

A host who overflows with goodness and kindness to wards his guests must relate to them that such feelings arise due to his joy at their acceptance of his hospitality.

Insights on Life: One is obligated by the Torah to fulfill the Mitzvah of “Hospitality to Guests and Strangers.”

This mitzvah of “hospitality to guests and strangers” is included in the mitzvah, “You shall walk in His ways.” Certainly, this is a great virtue, exemplified by Abraham our father. For each act of hospitality that Abraham personally performed for his guests, Hashem, blessed by He, personally performed an act of kindness for Abraham’s descendants. If Abraham performed hospitable deeds through a messenger, as implied by Genesis 18:4, “Let some water be brought?” (Rashi adds: “by means of a messenger”), Hashem likewise performed deeds of grace and kindness for Abraham’s descendants through a messenger. Indeed, in fulfilling this mitzvah of hospitality to guests, not only does one fulfill the positive commandment of “You shall walk in His ways,” but he fulfills all of the 613 Mitzvoth, and is awarded accordingly. Why? Because Hashem, blessed be He, is receiving guests (creation) continuously and perpetually - every minute, every second, every moment of existence; otherwise, the world would cease to exist. In other words, the whole world, all of creation, are guests of Hashem, as He perpetually brings into existence and sustains creation, each and every moment. If for but one brief instant Hashem did not bring all of creation into existence, which is an endless and continuous process, then creation would revert to a state of absolute nothingness, and nonexistence.

The mitzvah of hospitality to guests, since it parallels Hashem and His hospitality to us (creation), is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. This is known from Tractate Shabbat: “Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav - Hospitality to strangers is greater than welcoming the presence of the Shechinah, for it is written ‘My master, if I find favor in your eyes, please do not go on’ (Genesis 18:3).” Therefore, we must emulate Abraham’s zealous performance of this mitzvah, as he “sat in the door of the Tent” (Genesis 18:1). He sat there, Rashi explains, “To see if there is a passerby whom he might take into his house.” We also learn from observing Abraham our father that one should personally perform this mitzvah himself. For instance, even if one is old, or he has many servants - indeed, even if he is sick - he should personally provide food and drink for his guests; thus instructs the Talmud, “It is a greater mitzvah [to perform it himself] than through a messenger” (Tractate Kiddushin).

The source in the Parsha: “And Abraham ran unto the cattle” (Genesis 18:7). The Rambam writes, “The purport thereof is to tell us of [Abraham’s] great desire to bestow kindness. This great man had 318 servants in his house, each one a swordsman, and he was very old and weakened by his circumcision, yet he went personally to Sarah’s tent to urge her in the making of bread, and afterwards he ran to the place of the herd to choose a calf, tender and good, to prepare for his guests, and he did not have these done by means of his [318] servants, who stood ready to serve him.”

Insights on Life: “A host who overflows with goodness and kindness to wards his guests must relate to them that such feelings arise due to his joy at their acceptance of his hospitality.” We learn this from our sages, of blessed memory: “When a distinguished man receives, [it is considered as if] he gives” (Kidushin 8b). When a host gives to a distinguished man, he receives so much joy, it is as though he is receiving.

Source in the Parsha: “My master, if I find favor in your eyes, please do not go on [without stopping by me]” (Genesis 18:3). Rashi says that Abraham addressed the most important Arab, but referred to all three as “master,” inviting them into his house - “because you [plural] have come past your servant.”

Themes in the Parsha

“[Abraham] planted an eishel (tamarisk-tree) in Beer-Sheba, and there he called on the name of Hashem, Eternal Lord” (Genesis 21:33)

Reish Lekesh said, “Read not ‘and he called’ but ‘and he made to call,’ thereby teaching that our father Abraham caused the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, to be uttered by the mouth of every passer-by. How was this? After travelers would eat and drink, they arose to bless Abraham, but he said to them, ‘And do you think of mine you ate? No, you ate of that which belongs to the G-d of the Universe. Thank, praise, and bless Him Who spoke, and the world came into being.”

According to the Talmud, the guests did not want to bless Hashem of their own volition. So Abraham would say to them, after offering his hospitality, “Pay up for what you ate and drank.” Because Abraham’s house was in the desert, where food and drink are scarce the guests were in significant debt! When the guests realized the enormity of this sum, they agreed to bless Hashem (as opposed to paying Abraham) (Sotah 10a).

The Holy Zohar explains in length how Abraham proclaimed the name of Hashem and brought people close to Him, by planting the (“eishel”) tamarisk-tree: “In every place that Abraham lived, he planted there a tree... And through the tree he would know with what type of guests he spoke. He who was united with Hashem - the tree would spread out it’s branches and cover him, making for him a pleasant shade. And he who was united with idol worship (avodah zorah) - the tree would rise from him, it’s branches would lift above [not providing shade]. Then Abraham knew he must warn this person [of his separation from Hashem] and not allow him to leave until he would unite with Hashem. Likewise, he who was pure - the tree would receive him. And he who was not pure - the tree would not receive him. By means of this Abraham knew if one must immerse himself in a Mikvah immediately (because if his impurity was a lesser impurity- ‘Impurity of the night’ - then he doesn’t need to wait seven days before becoming pure again). If the water would dry up, then Abraham would know that this person had an impurity for which it is necessary to wait seven days before becoming pure.”

Our Sages, of blessed memory, relate that everything which Abraham personally did for the ministering angels (his guests, the three Arabs), Hashem, blessed be He, personally did for his descendants. Moreover, all hospitality which Abraham performed through a messenger, Hashem, blessed be He, likewise rewarded his descendants through a messenger (lit, servant). For example, Abraham’s assertion, “Let some water be brought...” implies an order to a servant. Likewise Hashem brought water to Abraham’s sons by means of a messenger (servant) - specifically, by means of Moses, as we read in Exodus 17:6: “and you shall strike the rock and water will come forth from it and the people will drink.”

The holy Rav, the Maggid of Kozhnitz (see story), elucidates on the words of our Sages, mentioned above, in his book Avodat Yisrael. The Maggid writes that since at first it appeared t Abraham that his guests were Arabs - idol worshipers - he did not want to descend from his holiness to mingle with them, because he feared contamination from the Arabs and their impure thoughts. Therefore he said, ‘Let some water be brought...’ which implies by way of a messenger, specifically his servants. However, Hashem revealed to Abraham that he need not fear such contamination. Why? Because in the future, Hashem would reward Abraham’s descendants. If Hashem would lower Himself and reward his descendants, then certainly Abraham, as opposed to his servants, could lower himself to personally clean the Arab’s feet! Besides, since Hashem has mercy on His creations. Abraham could trust that He would guard him from all evil - in this case, the impurity of his guests.

This sheds light on how we must undergo our service to Hashem. Each Jew must personally strive to bring his brothers close t our Father in Heaven, no matter how far and removed they might be. we learn this from a Kal Vachomer (logic a fortiori - “how much more so”). Behold - if prior to the giving of the Torah to the Jewish Nation, before the obligations to “reprove your brother” and “all Jews are responsible one for the other”, and Abraham nevertheless washed the feet of the Arabs himself; then even more so (Kal Vachomer) today, after the giving of the Holy Torah and uniting together as a nation, and after receiving the above obligations, that every single Jew should bring close all of his brothers to our Father in Heaven. In the eyes of Hashem we are all His children, and we lack the knowledge to deem one Jew more significant over any other. Thus our Sages, of blessed memory ask - “What [reason] do you see [for thinking] that your blood is redder? Perhaps his blood is redder?” (Pesachim 25b). Rashi explains: “Who says that your soul is more valuable before Hashem than that of any other Jew? Perhaps this one’s [soul] is more valuable before to Him!”

The ways of the world (“Halichot”) are His. Do not read “Halichot” but “Halachot,” Torah laws.

“And he [Abraham] was sitting at the entrance of the tent” (Genesis 18:1), “to see if there is a passerby, whom he might take into his house” (Rashi).

One is commanded to satisfy both the physical and spiritual needs of a guest in his house. Concerning the spiritual needs of his guest, the Shulchan Aruch says, “It is forbidden to give a person bread to eat if he has not washed his hands,” because of the injunction, “In front of a blind person you should not place an obstacle” (Leviticus 19:14). A host, moreover, must supervise his guests, lest they do not bless Hashem before and after they eat or drink. If a host realizes that his guests lack belief in Hashem and are deficient in their observance of the mitzvoth, he must bring them closer to Hashem in whatever manner of which he is capable, until his guests reach an appropriate level of belief and service.

Akedat Yitschak - The Binding of Isaac.

“It is proper to proclaim the story of the binding of Isaac everyday” (Tur, Orach Chaim, sim. 1), “in order to remember the merit of our fathers before Hashem and also to give over our soul in serving Him, blessed be He, just as Isaac gave over his soul” (Beis Yosef).

One must study Mussar (ethics) so as to deliver his soul to Hashem and the sanctification of His Name; even more so, he must deliver the limbs of his body to Hashem in order to subdue his physical desires. For instance, one should rise early for prayer and the study of Torah, to subdue idle talk, indolence, and so forth - that is, one must give up his will for Hashem’s will. Furthermore, whenever one encounters any opportunity to sin or to perform a mitzvah, he must reflect that this is a test. He should think, “Hashem is testing me here, as He tested Abraham. Should I avoid this sin or fulfill this mitzvah?” Surely if one realized that Hashem is testing him, at each moment, he would be very cautious in his thoughts, speech and actions. Accordingly, a Jew should always consider all situations in life as tests from Hashem - indeed, life itself is a test. Praiseworthy is he who always keeps in mind Hashem, his Creator! (the Shlah)

The Fire

And he planted an ‘eishel (tamarisk tree) (21:33) ‘Eishel’ (alef, shin, lamed) is an abbreviation for achilah, shesiyah, levayah (food, drink, seeing a guest off)

A villager once burst into the study of the Maggid of Kozhnitz, all upset. A terrible fire had just broken out in his inn, burning everything that he owned.

“I don’t understand it, Rebbe. I have been a G-d fearing Jew all my life. I keep an inn and run my business honestly. I welcome each guest warmly and feed him well, even if he is a wandering beggar and cannot pay. I am certainly not worse than the next Jew. Why then has this catastrophe happened to me?”

The Rebbe listened while he ranted and raved. Then he replied, “You may have treated your guests properly but hospitality does not end at your doorstep. You must also accompany them a few steps, and see that they have provisions for the road ahead. This is an important part of hospitality; it is the lamed of eishel, levayah, to escort them. And since you forgot this vital point, all that remained from your eishel was eish or fire.” (Acknowledgments to Tales of Tzaddikim)

A Story on the Subject of Holiness

A large group of Chasidim stood in the Study House of Rebbe Sholom of Belz waiting for the Rebbe to arrive. Among those in the room was the Rebbe Maharash (Reb Shmuel), who stood in a corner, incognito.

After some time had passed, the elderly Belzer Rebbe arrived and, although he was blind, he passed through the room to the exact place where Reb Shmuel was standing.

He stood in front of Reb Shmuel and said, “I sense an air of holiness in this spot. You cannot hide from me.” He proceeded to question Reb Shmuel about his father, the Tzemach Tzedek, and invited him to sit at his side.

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