Torah Portion: Vayera Genesis 18:1-22:24
HafTorah: II Kings 4:1-37
In John 8:39 Yeshua says to us, “If you are Abraham’s children do the deeds of Abraham.” With this verse as a starting point I want us to look at the first 20 or so verses of chapter 18 of Genesis where Abraham experiences two visits. Now these visits happen after his circumcision. We don’t know how long after but Jewish sages see it as being pretty much immediately after. In fact, they see the visit of G-d as being an example to us of visiting the sick.
In any case, Abraham is sitting with G-d when what occurs? He sees three men approaching What does he do? He runs to greet them and provides hospitality to them. What do you think about this? If this was right can our religiosity get in the way sometimes? After Abraham’s circumcision running to meet these strangers was quite a feat in itself. Point being, providing for others was more important than his own comfort. Where is G-d during this? We can read it to say that Abraham left Him in the tent to go and tend to strangers. (Hebrews 13:2) Why would he do that? If this is what happened what can we learn from it? Let me offer a thought. When we offer hospitality to the stranger we are by definition giving to G-d. Every person is created in the image of G-d. The binding of Isaac gives us further insight into Abraham. Here we can see Abraham as a person who served G-d with no strings attached. His service was not based on what He would get in return. When presented with the situation where it seemed to be G-d’s will to withdraw the promised son He had sent Abraham, he did not question it. He was as ready to give his son to G-d as he was ready to give Him anything else.
His focus was on giving to G-d and not on what He might receive in return for what He gave. So he gave hospitality because that was called for with no strings attached. When a person is in need of food and your shelter it is as if G-d himself had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. This provides us with a fuller understanding of Matthew 25:31-46. Here Yeshua is talking specifically about our responsibility toward Jewish people. We can, without neglecting this fact, broaden it to include any person or people who are deprived and are neglected by the world.
As children of G-d we can’t sit by while people around us are in dire need, wrapped up in our religion while people created in G-d’s image perish. Abraham was presented with a choice, continue sitting with G-d and talking or get up and do something for these three people. We all need time with G-d but we can’t use that to cut ourselves off from the world.
After Abraham feeds and refreshes the strangers they continue on their journey to Sodom. What happens when they arrive? How is their reception different than what Abraham had done? While this is happening what is going on between G-d and Abraham back at the tent? He is bargaining with G-d for the lives of these people. He did not enter into judging them and sayings, “Well they are going to get what they deserve.” Rather, even when these people seemed to be polar opposites from him, his first concern was that they be saved from destruction. They eventually suffered for their actions but not before Abraham had interceded for them. His hands were clean from their blood. He did not once judge them,rather he stood in the gap for them. What does this teach us? Matthew 7:1-2
So to end, looking back at Abraham providing for the strangers, balance is always needed in our lives. We can’t be so wrapped up in doing that we cut out time with the Father. At the same time we can’t spend our lives in the tent while there are people around us in need.