And He Appeared
(Bereyshit 18:1-22:24)

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18:1 HASHEM appeared to him in the plains of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day.

Call Of The Torah - Rabbi Munk

Hashem appeared to him. Avraham had just carried out he act of circumcision. He feared lest this sign of the covenant prove to be a barrier between him and others, condemning him to isolation. And so Elokim appeared to him to make him understand that even if circumcision alienated him from men, it brought Avraham still closer to Him and made him worthy of "receiving a visit from Elokim, Who came to inquire about his health" (Rashi and Rabbah 47).

But this new dignity meant increased responsibilities. By entering into the covenant, Avraham became "father of a multitude of nations," that is, invested with a moral responsibility like that of a father toward his children. As b'ney berit (children of the covenant), the patriarch's descendants also have a moral responsibility toward the nations, as an older brother does toward his younger brothers. This is why the Torah calls them the b'ney bekhori (first born son) among the children of Elokim.

No sooner had Avraham entered into the covenant than he is made aware of his "paternal" role. Indeed, the revelation, whose main object was to "visit the sick," solemnly announces the fate in store for the city of Sedom and its inhabitants (verse 20). Although circumcision now distinguishes him from his contemporaries, Avraham has to remain aware of the solidarity which continues to unite him with those of his generation. Their fate directly concerns him. He can no more remain indifferent to their destiny than a father can ignore the fate of his children. Later, the Sages will declare: "If you see a greatly troubled generation, go forth and examine (the acts of) the judges of the Jewish people, for all retribution that comes to the world comes only on account of the judges of the Jewish people" (Shabbat 139a).

MeAm Lo'ez - Rabbi Yaakov Culi

In the Portion of Lekh Lekha we discussed how Avraham sought advice regarding circumcision from his three friends, 'Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. While each gave him different advice, only Mamre told him to obey Elokim's commandment exactly. Because of this, Elokim appeared to Avraham in Mamre's groves. (1)

1) Rashi; Zohar, p. 98

Rabbi Munk

While he was sitting at the entrance of the tent. This is typical of Avraham: he was seated at the feet of his Master to receive the Divine teaching (likewise, the Jewish people remain seated while reciting Shema' Yisra'el in prayer, to receive the Divine message addressed to them); seated at the entrance of Jewry's tent to welcome all those who wish to enter into the covenant; seated at the entrance of his home to offer hospitality to all strangers, whatever their religion; seated at the entry to Hell to bar the way to anyone bearing th eisgn of the covenant (Rabbah ibid.). At the exodus from Mitzrayim (Egypt), the blood of the covenant likewise appeared as a sign of protection on the lintels and doorposts of the Jewish homes (Shemot 12:23).

In the heat of the day. The charitable sun carries healing in its rays (Malakhi 3:20). The text, adds Ramban, emphasizes these details in order to draw our attention to the fact that at that moment Avraham had no thought of readying himself for an act of prophecy. He was in no condition to devote himself to prayer or deep mystical contemplation. He was just recovering from the effects of the circumcision and was looking for an opportunity to be hospitable. Yet, it was at this very moment that he received the Divine revelation.

This fact is of considerable significance for understanding the Jewish concept of prophecy, and how it has been misconstrued! Some have wanted to identify it with a state of exaltation or ecstasy or of trance and clairvoyance. And even some Jewish philosophical doctrines, are they not imbued with the idea that hitbod'dot as a method - physical and spiritual abstraction, isolation of man and thought - leads to prophecy? But what a gulf there is between such theories and true prophecy! It is not abstract contemplation but life itself, suffused with devotion to Elokim, whch draws the Ruach HaKodesh to itself. The Sages have emphasized that prophecy is not the product of a morbid imagination, nor of a state of excitement or supersensitiveness; the Divine spirit, they tell us, dwells neither with a man in a depressed or sorrowful state nor with one in a state of levity or frivolity, but only with the man who is experiencing the joy of performing a mitzvah (Shabbat 30b). And whenever the Torah speaks of a revelation to someone in a dream, the dream itself is then only the medium of Divine communication and not the expression of a visionary or ecstatic state. Here we see Avraham becoming a navi at a time of complete clarity of mind. (R' S. Hirsch).

Rabbi Culi

This happened "in the heat of the day," approximately ten o'clock in the morning. (2) The Torah also states that Avraham "was sitting at the door of the tent." This might seem unnecessary; what difference does it make whether he was sitting by the door or in his living room? And why does the Torah need to tell us what time it was? The Torah could have said, "Elokim appeared to Avraham." Why does it merely state, "Elokim appeared to him," without mentioning his name?

The wording of this verse teaches us how great it is to fulfill Elokim's mitzvot. It purifies a person, refines him and makes him a new man. Because Avraham circumcised himself in his old age, he was very precious in Elokim's eyes.

Until this time, when Elokim had spoken to him, Avraham fell on his face on the ground. He was unable to stand in the presence of the Divine.

Also, one condition of prophecy is that the recipient be in a segragated place, so his mind will be at ease to receive the revelation. He must be in a state of joy and tranquility, with his mind free of all other thoughts. Only then is one fit for prophecy. When a person is depressed, the Divine Presence cannot rest on him.

Avraham, however, had reached such a high level that he could receive prophecy without these conditions. He was sitting at the door of his tent; people were constantly passing by, going in and out. It was not early in the morning or late at night, whent he world is quiet and the mind tranquil; but it was in the middle of the day, when everyone is about. Still Elokim appeared to him - because he fulfilled the commandment of circumcision.

The Torah therefore says, "Elokim appeared to him." He was not merely Avraham, but the man who had fulfilled Elokim's commandment. As a result, Elokim appeared to him even though he was sitting, even though he was at the door of his tent, and even though it was the middle of the day, when the mind is not tranquil. He could behold the Divine Presence in Its radiance, and not fall on his face.

This also teaches us something about Avraham's saintliness. Although circumcision was very painful, he did it with the greatest joy. As a result of his joy, the Divine Presence revealed Itself to him. (3)

This took place on Tishri 12 (2048) (October 8, 1714 b.c.e.). (Since Avraham was circumcised on Yom Kippur, Tishri 10) this was the third day since his circumcision. Usually, when a person is circumcised the inflammation is at its worst on this day. This was certainly true of Avraham, since he was 99 years old. Obviously he was suffering greatly from the pain and inflammation. Elokim therefore revealed Himself in order to visit him. Elokim was thus doing something that He requires us to do, visiting the sick. (4)

3)Alshikh; Toledot Yitzchak; Tzeror HaMar.
4)Bava Metzia, Chapter 7

18:2 He lifted his eyes and saw: And behold! three men where standing over him. He perceived, so he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and bowed toward the ground.

Rabbi Munk
And saw and behold! three men. Rashi explains: "One to announce the good news concerning Sarah (Micha'el), the second to overthrow Sedom (Gavri'el) and the third to heal Avraham (Rafa'el)." But if "one messenger does not carry out to missions," as Rashi tells us, then why did the malakh Micha'el also go to save Lot? R' Bachya answers that it was because the same principle of love was involved in both missions and so one malakh was authorized to carry out both. But he cannot do so when the missions involved two opposite principles, such as strict punishment and mercy. For the "peace which reigns in the celestial heights" (Iyyov 25:2) is built on a hierarchical order governing the assignment of the functions of each factor of creation.

Rabbi Culi

Avraham was charitable with all his heart and soul, especially when it came to taking in wayfarers. He sent his servant Eliezer out to invite them in, but he returned and said, "I saw no one." Avraham did not rely on his servant. He himself went out to see if he could find any travelers in need of hospitality. (39) He waited until after 10 o'clock in the morning without eating, hoping to share his breakfast with someone in need. (40)

Elokim then sent him three malakhim: Micha'el, Gavri'el and Rafa'el. They had to come anyway since they had messages for Avraham; but in order to give Avraham a chance to display hospitality, He sent them to his house in the form of human beings. (41).

Since Avraham saw them as plain people, he wanted to know what kind of men they were, if they were intelligent and polite or not. When they approached the house, Avraham began to change his dressing, so that they would see that he was in pain. Immediately, they turned back, indicating that they did not wish to disturb him.

This explains the order of the verse. It says, "Behold, three men were standing over him. He saw them and ran from the door of his tent to greet them." The wording is somewhat difficult. If they were "standing over him," right next to him, why did he have to run to greet them? This, however, alludes to the fact that they had walked away from him, not wishing to bother him. Avraham had to run after them.

Another strange wording in the verse is the phrase, "He ran to greet them." If they were walking away from him, it should say, "He ran after them." However, as we shall see below in Chapter 4, Avraham's house had an entrance in each direction. When they left him, they walked around the cornder of the house. Taking a short cut through the building, Avraham was able to meet them head on. (42)

41)Bereyshit Rabbah. Cf. Zohar, p. 101; Bava Metzia, loc. cit.
42)Chen Tov. Cf. Teledot Yitzchak