Vayera – Going the Extra Mile
I struggle to understand the first passage of Vayera, the passage illustrating Abraham’s enthusiastic hospitality and care for others. The Midrash notes that it was the third day since Abraham’s circumcision, when his pain and weakness resulting from his surgery were at their peak. Furthermore, the verse describes the time of the day as k’chom hayom, when the sun was at its zenith. The Midrash views this as another expression of Abraham’s sincerity in serving others despite his discomfort.
When Abraham saw the three travellers passing near his home he ran to greet them although they were strangers. He proceeded to bow courteously to these men of the desert and implored them to avail themselves of his hospitality. He offered them water with which to bathe their feet from the dust of the road and offered them a place to relax in the shade of the tree while he prepared food for them. Sarah was drafted to prepare some fresh loaves of bread. Abraham selected his finest calf from the herd and enlisted the help of a member of his household to prepare it. When everything was ready Abraham served his guests, waiting on them to provide anything they might desire.
To describe Abraham’s hospitality as extravagant is an understatement. Who does this? Who has the time and resources to offer a 5 star spa experience to passerbys, attending personally to all their needs?
A curious Midrashic extrapolation is derived from the very first verse of the reading. “And the Lord appeared to him in Elonei Mamrei, and he was sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” (Genesis 18:1) Rashi cites the Midrash in Bereshit Rabba, describing a conversation between the Lord and Abraham who were communicating at the time. Abraham wanted to stand, as he felt that was appropriate when communicating with God. The Lord bid Abraham to remain seated while He stood (so to speak). The Lord told Abraham that in the future He would stand over the court judges while they sit to adjudicate the law. The verse is Psalms (82) support