Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guests of Honor

"They (pretended) to eat"  [Vayeira 18:8]

The Torah states that the angels ate the food which Avraham served them, on which Rashi comments: "they pretended to eat".

It appears, therefore, that Avraham did not perform a mitzvah by feeding his guests, for ultimately they were angels who did not need to eat.  Thus: a) Avraham interrupted his audience with the Divine Presence unnecessarily, and b) How can we learn the principle that "welcoming guests is greater than welcoming the Divine Presence" [Shabbos 127a] from an incident where there were no real guests present?

Generally speaking, with acts of kindness, the primary focus is on the results of the mitzvah, i.e. the benefits given to the guests - food and drink etc.

The unique quality of the mitzvah of welcoming guests is that the primary focus is not on the benefits received by the guests, but rather on the good will demonstrated by the host.  In this light, it turns out that Avraham did fulfill the mitzvah of welcoming guests, in the most exemplary manner.

Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Gutnick Chumash


Batya said...

Most important was Avram's intention. L'havdil, if a con artist scams for tzedaka, the donor still gets mitzvah credit.

Devorah said...

" L'havdil, if a con artist scams for tzedaka, the donor still gets mitzvah credit."

True, but the money is put to the wrong purpose by the con artist, and the donor misses out on the benefits that would have accrued by his money being put to good use (the spiritual interest on the money, so to speak).

But that's can be another blog post for the future :)