The Spiritual Outreach of Avraham and Sarah


The inspiration for this letter comes from the following Divine message which the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed to our people:

 “Listen to me, pursuers of righteousness; seekers of Hashem: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Avraham, your father, and to Sarah, who bore you” (Isaiah 51:1,2)
“Look to Avraham, your father, and to Sarah who bore you” – “Look at them, and go in their ways” (commentary of Radak).
In this letter, we will discuss sources which reveal that Avraham and Sarah engaged in spiritual outreach. These sources can therefore inspire us to go in their ways and engage in the spiritual outreach which is crucial to our future in Zion.
Dear Friends,
Avraham and Sarah lived in a pagan era where most people viewed the world as an arena of competing gods and their competing followers. This is because most people had lost the awareness that Hashem, the Compassionate One, is the Unifying Source of all creation. Avraham and Sarah therefore began to engage in spiritual outreach in order to help people regain the unifying awareness of Hashem. In addition, they made people aware that they were created in the Divine image with the ability to emulate the compassionate and loving attributes of Hashem. Through their spiritual outreach, Avraham and Sarah were able to “convert” many people to their monotheistic faith.
An allusion to their spiritual outreach is found in a verse which describes the journey of Avraham and Sarah to the Promised Land. The verse mentions that Avraham and Sarah were accompanied by “the souls they made in Haran” (Genesis 12:5). The commentator, Rashi, writes:

“They are said to have ‘made’ the souls, for they brought them under the wings of the Shechinah – the Divine Presence. Avraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women.” (based on Midrash Genesis Rabbah 39:14, 84:4)

Regarding Avraham’s outreach in the Promised Land, the Torah states:
“He planted an eshel in Beer-Sheba, and there he proclaimed the Name of Hashem, God of the universe.” (Genesis 21:33)
What is the eshel that Avraham planted? Rashi cites the following explanations of two sages, Rav and Shmuel:
“One says that it means an orchard from which to bring fruits for guests at the meal. And one says it means an inn for lodging, and in it were all sorts of food.”
According to the second explanation, Avraham “planted” a hospitality tent for travelers. Rashi explains that the Hebrew term for planting is also used within biblical literature in reference to tents, and he cites the following example: “And he will plant the tents of his palace” (Daniel 11:45).
According to both explanations, the eshel was a place of loving hospitality where “he proclaimed the Name of Hashem, God of the Universe.” Avraham proclaimed the Name of Hashem not only through his teachings, but also through emulating the compassionate and loving attributes that are associated with the Divine Name. As the following Midrash teaches, he also brought guests into his home where they experienced his loving hospitality:
“Avraham, our father, would bring them into his home, give them food and drink, draw them close, and bring them under the wings of the Shechinah.” (Genesis Rabbah 84:4)

Sarah, who engaged in outreach to women, had a similar approach; thus, the Midrash states:
 “All the days that Sarah was alive, the doors were open wide.”(Genesis Rabbah: 60:16) 
The phrase, “The doors were open wide,” can be understood as a metaphor for her loving hospitality that attracted many spiritual seekers. The Midrash adds: “A blessing was bestowed upon her dough.” According to Tiferes Tzion, a commentary on the Midrash, the “blessing upon her dough” means that she was able to feed all the guests; there was always enough for everyone.
The above teachings reveal the loving nature of the outreach of Avraham and Sarah. In addition, these teachings reveal that they not only taught people about the compassionate and loving attributes of Hashem through their words, but also through the spiritual power of their own example.
The following teaching from the Talmud reveals that when we cause people to come close to Hashem through the spiritual power of our own example, we are also fulfilling the mitzvah to love Hashem:
Abaya states: It is written: “You shall love Hashem, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
One of the ways to express your love for Hashem is to cause the Name of Hashem to become beloved through you. The following can serve as examples: You should study the Written and Oral Torah, serve the sages (in order to learn from their ways), deal honestly in business, and speak pleasantly to people. (Yuma 86a)
The Talmud then adds the following insight: If one who studies Torah causes people to love Hashem through becoming a noble example of the Divine Teaching, people will praise those who taught this person Torah, and they will also say:
“Woe to those who do not study Torah! The one who studies Torah – how pleasant is his behavior, how proper are his deeds! To this person, the following Divine statement applies: ‘He said to me: You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified’ (Isaiah 49:3).”
Through their loving outreach and behavior, Avraham and Sarah caused the Name of Hashem to be beloved by people. As the above teaching from the Talmud indicates, this was one of the ways in which Avraham and Sarah expressed their love of Hashem.
We, the children of Avraham and Sarah, are to serve as a collective example of the Divine Teaching in the Land of Zion and thereby cause the Name of Hashem to be beloved by the nations. We will then merit the fulfillment of the following prophecy regarding our universal role in Zion at the dawn of the messianic age:
“Nations will go by your light; and sovereigns by the glow of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
Related Insights:
1. Avraham and Sarah taught their disciples spiritual concepts and precepts which are found in the Torah – the Divine Teaching – that was later revealed on Mount Sinai. Avraham and Sarah thereby became the spiritual parents of their disciples through teaching them aspects of Torah; thus, the Talmud teaches (Sanhedrin 99b):

“Whoever teaches his friend’s child Torah, it’s as if he made him, as it is written (concerning the disciples of Abraham and Sarah): ‘the souls they made in Haran’ (Genesis 12:5).”  
2. There is a custom at the Friday night Shabbos table to sing the ancient hymn  known as “Eshes Chayil” – A Woman of Valor – which is found in the concluding chapter of the Book of Proverbs. There is a tradition that it was composed by Avraham as an eulogy to Sarah, and it later became part of the Book of Proverbs (Midrash Tanchuma on Genesis 24:1). Within this eulogy to Sarah, we find the following words which may be referring to her spiritual outreach:
“She opened her mouth with wisdom, and the Torah of loving-kindness was upon her tongue.” ((Proverbs 31:26) 
3. Hashem proclaimed: “Look to Avraham, your father, and to Sarah, who bore you” (Isaiah 51:2). Based on the Hebrew grammar, Rashi gives this alternative translation:
“Look to Avraham, your father, and to Sarah, who will give birth to you.”
“Sarah, who will give birth to you” – According to this translation, the reference to Sarah is alluding to the spiritual rebirth of our people. In this spirit, King David refers to our people in the messianic age as the “newborn people” (Psalm 22:32). 


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