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by Michael Alterman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Plains of Mamrei: The day before Passover
14 Nissan 2047 years AC (After Creation)



Plains of Mamrei: The day before Passover
14 Nissan 2047 years AC (After Creation)

6:13 AM - The rooster crows and Abraham arises to pray Shacharit, the daily morning service that he instituted.

7:43 - Although suffering from the horrible pain of the circumcision he performed on himself just three days before, Abraham takes up his post at one of the openings to his tent located on the corner of a major desert intersection. He anxiously scans the horizon for any potential guests which he can invite into his home.

11:33 - As midday approaches, there are still no humans in sight. With the blazing sun beating down on the desert terrain, the temperature approaches a record high in the history of the Middle East.

12:43 PM - Anguished by the lack of opportunity to welcome any guests into his home, Abraham sends out his trusted servant Eliezer to search the area for wayfarers in need of a good meal and a place to rest.

1:43 - Eliezer returns home alone, unable to find anybody traveling the roads on this hottest of days. Abraham utters a silent prayer that travelers in need of repose should somehow chance across his path.

1:53 - G-d Himself stops by Abraham's tent and pays him a visit.

2:13 and 13 seconds -Unable to satisfy Abraham's drive for chesed (loving kindness) in any other way, Hashem sends three Arab "men" down the desert path. Abraham spots them from a distance approaching the tent. He excuses himself from G-d's presence and leaps from his chair to greet them. Speaking with utmost respect to these absolute strangers, Abraham begs them to stay for a while in the shade of his beautiful orchard and rest their weary feet. He humbly offers them a little bread, all the while knowing that he will serve them a meal fit for a king.

2:13 and 23 seconds - Overseeing everything himself with breakneck speed - notwithstanding his enormous pain, advanced age, and numerous servants on call - Abraham runs inside to begin the preparations. He informs Sarah that guests have arrived and asks her to quickly prepare dough for the meal.

2:13 and 43 seconds - Abraham selects the finest calf from his flock. Unwilling to pass up a tremendous opportunity to educate his 13 year-old son Yishmael in the importance and beauty of the mitzvah of gemilut chassadim (performance of acts of loving kindness), he gives the calf to Yishmael to slaughter and cook.

2:23 - With the meat not yet ready, Abraham serves his guests a tantalizing dairy appetizer.

2:53 - Abraham presents his guests with the best meat delicacies available, served on the finest china. He stands over them and takes care of their every need.

3:33 - Having completed the meal, the guests express to Abraham their appreciation for providing such a splendid feast. Abraham responds that he deserves no thanks: "All gratitude should be directed to the One above." He then proceeds to teach them about G-d and how they can properly express their thanks to Him by reciting Birkat HaMazon, the grace after meals.

3:53 - One of the strangers informs Abraham and Sarah that at this time next year, the couple will be blessed with a son.

4:13 - Abraham escorts them on their way to the city of Sodom. As they leave, G-d appears to him once again and informs him of the impending destruction of Sodom and its four neighboring cities. Abraham embarks on an impassioned and lengthy plea that G-d should be merciful and spare the cities' wicked inhabitants.

6:13 - Unsuccessful in his efforts because of the populace's absolute moral depravity, Abraham returns to his tent.

7:13 - Abraham and Sarah sit down to their Passover seder with their entire household.

As we study about our great Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and contemplate their remarkable deeds, let us remember to consider how we can incorporate these lessons into our own lives. After all, we are their great-grandchildren, and as such there is a part of them in each of us.


Based on the 18th chapter of Genesis and its major commentaries.

Michael Alterman, who hails from Atlanta, is enrolled in a joint program with Ner Israel Rabbinical College and Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore.

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