Posted by: jdiscover | November 6, 2009

To Be or To Act?


Adonai appeared to him (Abraham) by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of his tent as the day grew hot. Looking up he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of his tent to greet them.” So begins this week’s Torah reading, Vayera.

How rude was Abraham! God appears to him and he runs off to greet some strangers. Before God speaks, Abraham is out the door. Abraham doesn’t even say; “Excuse me God. I have to welcome these strangers. I will be right back.” He just leaves. He leaves before God speaks. Miss Manners would not have approved!

What truth is in this strange act? Everywhere else in the Torah when God appears, God delivers a message. Here God appears and Abraham disappears – to be with his guests.

The Torah is teaching us when to speak and when to be silent. According to the Midrash, God appeared to visit the sick. At the end of last week’s reading Abraham was circumcised. So according to the Midrash, God came to help with his recuperation – to perform the mitzvah of bikkur cholim(visiting the sick). When we visit the sick or comfort the mourner the message is in our being there, not in what we say. Presence alone brings comfort and healing. When aiding a person in pain we need to listen. We need to be silent so that we can hear their needs.

On the other hand, when performing a true act of kindness, as Abraham does in welcoming the strangers (the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim), we should strive to act without being asked. “Abraham hastened into the tent, to Sarah, and said, ‘Quick, three measures of choice flour! Knead and make bread…’”

This is an eternal truth; we comfort and heal with our silence presence. We express our kindness with our words and actions. May we all know when to be present and when to act. Shabbat Shalom; Rabbi David Rose


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