Thursday, October 29, 2009

Parashat VaYeira: Abraham's Inn

"Abraham established an eshel [an inn for wayfarers] at Beersheba. And he called there the name of the Eternal, God of the universe" (Gen. 21:33).

How did Abraham use his inn to publicize God's Name?

The Blind Man's Mistake

At a certain home, guests would be seated around the table according to their importance. The host would serve the guest next to him; then that guest would pass the food to the next guest, and so on.

One day the family hosted several new guests, including a blind man who was stationed at the end of the table. When the blind visitor received his food, he began to thank the guest sitting next to him for providing for his needs.

"What, do you think this food is mine?" the man replied in surprise. "It belongs to the owner of the house! I am just a guest, like you, passing on the food."

Abraham's Eshel

The Sages explained how Abraham used his inn to help his guests to recognize God.

Abraham was renowned for his hospitality. He would personally attend to the needs of each visitor. After his guests ate and drank, they wanted to bless Abraham for his generosity. But Abraham would respond, "Do you think that I am the one who provided the food you have eaten? Like you, I am only a guest in this world. You should thank the real Ba'al ha-bayit - the One Who spoke and the world came into being!" (Sotah 10a)

(Meshalim ve-gam Sipurim (Steinman, 1957), p. 32)