Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Vayeira 5770- Welcoming guests

In this weeks parshah we have the infortunate incident of the destruction of Soddom and Gemorrah.  Before it happens, we have the incident of the three angels coming to Avraham.  The Torah tells us that Avraham was sitting in the shade of his tent when G-d came to visit.  Here rashi tells us that the purpose of the visit was to visit the sick, as Avraham was still recovering from his Bris (circumcision).  While Avraham is sitting there, he sees three people passing in the distance and gets up to run to greet the, to call them in to visit and to refresh themselves.  never mind he is ill, in pain and recoverring himself- he stands and rushes to greet his guests. using words designed to get them to agree. 

Perhaps that last staement needs clarification- he does not go and trick them- but he observes their behaviour and from it he derives what their needs are.  he does nto ask them to stay overnight or to stay over long, for he can see they were due to travel past him, and thus it would be wrong for him to delay them unnecessarily.  so instead he greets them, and offers them rest and respite from the road until they can continue onwards.  Nor does he see the greeting of guests and seeing to their comforts as an onerous task.  W ehave just read that when he went to war he had 318 men with him, they would hae had wives, children and families; he had many followers and servants around him, yet he hastened to select a calf himself, to see to the preparation of their food and to see to their needs himself.  In the mind of Avraham, clearly the greeting of guests was of paramount imortance!

The torah doe snto stop there in teaching this lesson.  When the angels leave, Avraham bargains with G-d to try and save the inhabitants of Sodom and gemorrah and the related cities.  Not even ten righteous men can be found- the only righteous man in all those cities is Lot.  yet it does nto appear that Lot is all that righteous himself!  he chooses to live amongst idol worshippers that are immoral, murderers and hostile to all merely to gain money.  He does not teach the values he has learned from Avraham to even his son-in-laws, who scoff and mock when he tries to get them to leave to avoid the coming destruction.   Also, when the people seek to rape and destroy the angels, Lot tries to save them by offering the mob his daughters!  Clearly he is not altogether righteous but he must have some merits to have been granted the title.

What merit can we see in Lot?  teh parshah shows us two, one directly and the other via a hint.  His first merit was that of hachnasat orchim, the welcoming of guests.  He is in a city where the commentators remark it was forbidden for non-residents to stay over night unless known to the residents.  Strangers could expect the immoral and dangerous behaviour that the residents wanted to inflict on the angels. Lot, knowing their danger, knowing that if strangers entered and slept on the street they would be raped and killed, sits at the entrance to the seet, tellign people to come to his house, but to come their indirectly in the hopes they would not be seen and traced and could thus spend the night unmolested.

The other merit is that it appears that Lot, like the Avot, kept many of the mitzvot of the Torah prior to their being given.  The Torah states that Lot gave the angels matzot, and Rashi remarks that it was Pesach.  Thus, like Avraham and the other Avot, while living in the land promised to the Jews he kept the Torah.   However, it seems that the primary merit of Lot is in the receiving of guests, his actions in this regard going so far as to him trying to sae them from the mob.


Note: As a;ways comments, corrections and discussion are welcomed


November 2, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , ,

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