CHAPTER 18 [verse 1] “And G-d appeared…” RASHI: Le’vaker es hacholeh – to visit the sick.
We have a commandment to stick to G-d and go in His ways. In figuring out how to fulfill that commandment, the commentators point out we are to emulate G-d. He gives Chesed (provides food for the world, for example), so, too, should, we provide food for others. Here, we learn from G-d the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim –to visit the sick. The timing of G-d’s visit is on the third day from when Avraham did his Bris Milah.
The verse continues to tell us that Avraham was sitting “pesach ha’ohel” at the opening of the tent. The pshat is that Avraham was sitting at the entrance hoping for guests – k’chom hayom – G-d made the day very hot so that no one should travel and that Avraham would not have to exert himself for guests while he wasn’t feeling well. But Avraham did not like not having guests, so Hashem sent the angels.
At this point, Hashem sends three angels on a mission to earth. Stephen Hawking is desperate to discover that which we don’t see in this world – he thinks he will find aliens. However, he has no clue the depth of the universe and that there are angels all about, which we just don’t see. Angels reside beyond our world in the Heavenly realms. When they must come to earth, they have to travel – and there are different travel spans they have to go through – some have to do many stops, some can come direct, etc. When sent to earth, angels are only one-track minded. They can do only one type of mission during each trip – so one angel can never do both healing and punishment. However, when an angel comes to heal, he can heal more than one person. The three angels’ assignments were: Micho’el is the one to tell the prophecy that Sara will have a child within the year; Gavree’el is the one to turn over Sodom and its suburbs; and Rafael to heal Avraham – and since Rafael is sent to do a saving/healing mission, on this trip to earth he can go from healing Avraham to saving Lot since both are saving missions.
They take on the guise of men so Avraham should have guests because Avraham is so distressed about not having guests on this day.
Now I want you to note something important. Judaism is different from many religions in that it is a religion which believes in action, not just thoughts. The height of spirituality in many other religions is a retreat from actions and experiences. The opposite is true with Judaism – you want to have a Shabbat or a holiday, you gotta have guests, foods, wines, nice clothing. You need to experience. In this week’s prasha we see meditation is not the end goal. Avraham is having the peak of spiritual ecstasy – right? – he is talking to G-d! Guests arrive…and what does Avraham do – he says, [verse 3] “wait here, G-d, I have actions to do – I have to get busy cooking and serving to do mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim.” The more important thing, the height of spirituality in Judaism, is the interaction with the world to serve G-d. You think it more important to sit and learn an esoteric piece of Kabbalah and feel all holy – but that isn’t the Torah version of holiness – holiness is to prepare food for guests, to visit the sick, to take care of the babies G-d will send you. Yes, you come back to the esoteric (Avraham tells G-d he will come back to have the conversation (meditation) with Him)…but for now, his priority was grabbing the opportunity to help someone.