1998Genesis Chapter 18
On Welcoming Guests
The Lord appeared to him [Abraham] by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the 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 the tent to greet them and bowing to the ground, he said, "My lords, if it please you do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought, bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let me fetch you a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then, go on--seeing you have come your servant's way."...
Your Torah Navigator
Question: If you were Abraham would you leave God to go greet three strangers?
Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 127b
Rabbi Yochanan said, "How great is [the mitzvah] of welcoming guests. The one who engages in this activity is as great as the one who goes early to the House of Study. As it is taught [in the Mishnah] "One is permitted to move heavy bundles on shabbat [in order to make room] for guests and to [prevent people] from leaving the House of Study"
Rabbi Dimi from Nahardea said, "Welcoming guests is greater, because the Mishnah teaches it first and then talks about making room for students.
Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav, "Welcoming guests is greater than receiving the face of the Shechina (the Divine presence) as it is written, [about Abraham, Genesis 18] "My lords if it please you do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought..."
Rabbi Elazar said, "See how the ways of the Holy One are not like the ways of flesh and blood. Our custom would never allow a child to tell his elder to wait until I come back to you, while we see that the Holy One did so [waited until Abraham went to serve them food.] as it is written, "My lords or if it please you do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be brought..."
Rabbi Yohanan said, "There are six things that one eats the fruits from this world and the principal sustains him in the next world: Welcoming guests, visiting the sick, meditative prayer, rising early to go to the Beit Midrash, raising your children with Torah study, and judging each person favorably...
Your Talmud Navigator
1. According to Rabbi Yehudah in the name of Rav, what is the purpose of the Story about Abraham going out to greet the three men?
2. What is the relationship between getting up to study Torah and inviting guests home? Why are they compared?
3. How does the Talmud use this story of Abraham to prove its point?
4. Does it surprise you?
5. Why does being hospitable to strangers come before receiving the Divine presence?
6. Rabbi Yohanan mentions six things from which you will derive direct benefit in this world, i.e. that somehow your life will be better. Go down the list of six and explain how each of these six things will make your life better.
7. What is your list for a better life?
8. If the Talmud were running a Hillel, what would be its major pre-occupation?