- Why do you think Abraham was sitting at the entrance of the tent? Did he know that the three men were approaching him?
- How does Abraham respond to the arrival of the three strangers?
- At what point and how does he begin welcoming them?
- What may have motivated Abraham to respond in this way?
- Where do you see reciprocity in the relationship between the hosts and guests?
What are five ways Abraham is a good host in this story? In what ways would you say he could use some gentle constructive feedback?(thanks to Melissa Kansky, Hillel International)
- What details in the story seem superfluous to you?
- Today, you are a biblical commentator and everything that's in the story has something to teach us and your job is to uncover those lessons. What do you make of the superfluous details or descriptions you noticed above?
- Let's put ourselves in the characters' shoes:
- Why did God reveal God's self Abraham? What was the occasion?
- What do you imagine Abraham was thinking when God appeared? And when he saw the guests?
- How do you think the men felt during the events of the story as they approached? And while they were being entertained?
- Where is Sarah throughout this encounter? Where you do think she is at emotionally?
- Why did God reveal God's self Abraham? What was the occasion?
4. What are five ways Abraham is a good host in this story? In what ways would you say he could use some gentle constructive feedback?
Is God a Leading or Supporting Character?
What are we doing and who are we when we are hosting?
Rav Soloveitchik, Abraham's Journey
The Almighty is the great makhnis orchim. His hospitality made it possible for humanity to exist, for the world to come into being. "To be" means to share in the infinite being of the Almighty. The Almightly, like Abraham, invites people to partake of His boundless existence. Creation is an act of haknasat orchim. Our sages (Berakhot 7b) said that Abraham was the first person to invoke God by the name A-donai. This name is of juridic origin; God owns the world in juridic terms...We are just strangers whom the Almighty has invited into his "tent," which is the universe. How beautiful is the doctrine of tzimtzum, of contraction....What is hakhnasat orchim if not withdrawal by the master from a part of his home so that a stranger can occupy the empty part he vacates?
פירוש הכנסת אורחים שהוא נברא בצלם אלקים, ודבר זה נחשב ענין אלקי, כמו מי שמשכים לבית המדרש לתורה שהיא אלקית.
Maharal, Chidushei Agadot, Shabbat 127a
When one extends hospitality to guests, he is welcoming human beings who are created in God’s Image. In this way, hospitality is greater than receiving the Divine Presence because connection with the Divine Presence is limited [but connecting with the Divine Image embodied by a person is complete.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Lights of Holiness
The higher holiness abounds with love, compassion and tolerance, as the mark of its most radiant perfection. Hatred, sternness and irritability result from forgetting God, and the extinguishing of the light of holiness. The more intense the quest for God is in a person’s heart, the more the love for all people will grow in him. He will also love the wicked and the heretics and desire to correct them, as he indeed corrects them by his great faith. However, a person is unable openly to show love except to someone in whom he finds a good element. He will thus be able to direct his love to the dimension of the good. He will not be hurt by the evil side in those people to whom he will extend love in meeting his commitment to love people, which involves being good and extending good to the wicked as well as to the good. (credit to Rabbi Jon Leener)
Rabbit James Jacobsosn-Maisels
This welcoming is not only an external act but also an internal one. Can we welcome all the internal visitors to our heart, the joy and sorrow, the anger and love, and in doing create the healing and love that Eliezer and Abraham do. The challenge of both Abraham and Eliezer is: Can we be this welcoming to both the external and internal guests which come to call? Can we relate with the warm, loving hospitality that Eliezer displayed in his indiscriminate welcoming of every visitor? It is very hard to do, but the reward is great. Indeed, we learn in the Talmud, Rav Yehudah said: Welcoming guests (hakhnasat orhim) is greater than receiving (me-hakabalat) the face of the Shekhinah.
Welcoming guests is even greater than receiving the Shekhinah, the divine presence, perhaps because guests are not always so pleasant. There are some guests we rejoice to see at our door: pleasure, excitement, joy, love, and laughter. But there are others whom, when we see them through the peephole, we cringe before: shame, anger, doubt, malice, jealousy, confusion, discomfort and fear, hoping that if we do not open the door they will just go away. Yet what we learn from Reb Eliezer is that these openings are fundamentally connected. We cannot choose to only open to the pleasant guest, we cannot truly open to the joy without opening to the pain, we cannot open to the love without opening to the anger, we cannot open to laughter without opening to tears. When we shut our doors to keep out unwanted guests we actually shut the doors on the prison that keeps us inside. We trap ourselves in a prison of fear, suspicion, judgment, resistance, anger and hurt. We think we are protecting ourselves by not letting these guests in, or at least making our lives a little less unpleasant and complicated. But actually we are just trapping ourselves in a stuffy, dull, unpleasant, crowded and tense house. If we open the windows and doors, it’s true, we can’t know who will enter. We can’t control who comes through. But if we do not, our face will never feel the sun, wind and rain, the freshness, vitality and beauty of life. Nor will we feel the cold, the storm, the thunder and lightning, the damp and drizzle, the hail and sleet. They may be unpleasant at times, or even frightening, but they all have their beauty, the beauty of being true.
What haven’t you been hospitable to yet? Just examine yourself for a moment. It’s ok, we’ve all done it. What haven’t we been willing to really let in? What haven’t you been willing to really let in? Stop. See what it is. Take another look. Do you think you could let it in? Is there some way you could make friends with it, invite it in, allow it to sit down? You’re not falling into it or letting it take you over, you are just offering it a chair in the living room and allowing it to wander about the house. Can you soften into whatever that ‘unwanted’ guest is rather than shutting the door in its face? Can you see it with some compassion?
A Graceful Departure