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Ask the rabbi Shabbat and Holidays Sefer Bereshit

Being G-dly or Being Religious- Avraham having G-d Wait

Rabbi Ari ShvatCheshvan 7, 5772
209
Question
At the beginning of Parshat VaYera, according to Rashi, Avraham asks G-d to wait for him while he tends to his guests. Doesn’t that seem disrespectful? Yitz
Answer
Shalom Yitz, In fact, we find a difficult conversation between Avraham and Hashem. We recall that Avraham was recuperating from his recent Brit Milah and Hashem comes to visit him, Bikur Cholim. Suddenly,Avraham sees 3 Beduin idolaters walking in the desert and says: "אדני, אם נא מצאתי חן בעיניך אל נא תעבור מעל עבדך". The second half of the pasuk is clear: “Please don’t leave me”. But there is a difference of opinion whether the first word should be interpreted as if Avraham is addressing the angels (“my Masters”), begging them to partake of his hospitality, or whether he is talking to Hashem (“A-donay), requesting that Hashem stick around and wait until Avraham finishes serving his “honorable” guests. True, the second explanation sounds at first kind of chutzpadik, and even illogical. If one were talking to G-d Almighty Himself, he would probably consider it to be the highlight of his life, and would definitely not put Him on “hold” to wait in order to “take another call”! That’s why it’s so difficult to understand why the poskim (Rambam, Yesodei HaTorah, 6, 9), davka hold like the second explanation, that one isn’t allowed to deface that word (“A-donay”) because it’s a holy name. The answer is that Avraham allowed himself to ask Hashem to wait, because when he saw the opportunity for Hachnasat Orchim (hosting), he realized that he has a golden chance to be like G-d and serve others. G-d is perfect and doesn’t need anything, so what does He do all day? The answer is, He is altruistic, which means you give even if you don’t lack anything and don’t receive anything in return. Hashem constantly “serves” us: giving health, food, rain, etc.?! We must remember, why was G-d by Avraham in the first place? Because He wanted to visit the sick, He wanted to give. When the guests approached, Avraham had to make a decision between speaking to Hashem or being like Hashem, being a giver! The Torah comes to teach us that the goal is not to be “religious” (of which speaking to G-d would be the classic example), but to be G-dly (just like He constantly gives, so we, as imitatio dei- wishing to emulate G-d, must try to be givers). Rav Kook (Eder HaYakar, p. 137) stresses similarly that the modern world is not interested in shallow religions, usually comprised of Bible stories told in a childish form. Thank G-d, mankind has matured, is more intellectual than he used to be, and is looking for depth. The world is very thirsty for high ideals, which the Torah, when studied properly on a high level, is the only answer! The goal of the Torah is for us to totally identify with Hashem and His ideals, and that’s why to be G-dly is a higher level than to be religious (just observing the do’s and don’ts because He said so, without internalization or identification). In short, it’s greater to be like Hashem rather than to converse with Him! Don’t be religious- be G-dly! That’s what chazal mean: “Hachnasat Orchim (hosting guests) is greater than meeting the Schina! (the Divine Presence)” (Masechet Shabbat 127a). With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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