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THINGS ARE LOOKING UP

by Rabbi Shmuel Weiss    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"And Hashem appeared to Abraham ... who was sitting in the door of his tent in the heat of the day" (Genesis 18:1). Is there a connection between these two clauses, Hashem's visit and the posture of Abraham? Clearly, there is.

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"And Hashem appeared to Abraham ... who was sitting in the door of his tent in the heat of the day" (Genesis 18:1). Is there a connection between these two clauses, Hashem's visit and the posture of Abraham? Clearly, there is.

Abraham, we know, was anxiously looking for visitors to greet, so that he might exercise chesed and fulfill the mitzva of being hospitable. Neither his recent circumcision nor the intense heat of the day deterred him an iota. In fact, says the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 127), Abraham was so intent upon meeting the needs of others that he asked Hashem to wait in the wings while he took care of his guests!

This devotion to others was what so endeared Abraham to Hashem. For, as the Baal Shem Tov taught, the way to achieve love of G-d is to love other people. Love has that unique quality: The more that flows out of us, the larger the reservoir of our soul becomes. By loving others, Abraham developed a personality that could reach all the way to Hashem Himself.

This is one reason why we are told to be kind to animals, in order to develop sensitivity and love at an elementary level, later extending it to higher applications. And this may also explain the sages' comment that if one prays for someone else-even when he himself is in dire need of help-his prayers are answered more quickly than if he had only asked for his own personal needs. Both people will receive Divine assistance in an accelerated fashion, as we see from Abraham's prayer for King Avimelech in this week's Torah portion. Abraham prayed for Avimelech's family to be fruitful, and as a result, Sarah became pregnant! What is the dynamic behind this approach of "give and get"?

Rabbi Abraham Twerski, a clinical psychiatrist and noted Torah scholar, explains: It is true that our primary obligation is to safeguard our own interests and promote our own well-being. But if we become too egocentric, too pre-occupied with only our own concerns, then we start to focus exclusively inwards, and we stop looking outwards.

But it is outside us that the rest of humanity exists, and it is outside us that Hashem dwells, for He fills the entire Universe. If we don't learn to look out there, how will we ever come to notice Hashem?

Remember that the verse states, "Hashem appeared to Abraham." The implication is that Hashem was always there, it was just that at that moment He became visible and apparent to Abraham. By "lifting up his eyes" to the needs of others, Abraham discovered G-d standing right there in his doorway!

Sounds like a good prescription for better vision, don't you think?

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Rabbi Shmuel Weiss, a close friend of the Torah from Dixie family, is the director of the Jewish Outreach Center in Rana'ana, Israel. He is also the author of Shammes: Stories of Jewish Experience.

You are invited to read more Parshat Vayeira articles.

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