Last year we asked a question from the Ohr HaChaim on the first pasuk in Parshas Vayeira. “וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא” “Hashem appeared to him (Avraham) in the plains of Mamre…” (Bereishis 18:1). In Biblical Hebrew, normally the “see-er”, in this case Avraham, is always written before the “seen”, in this case Hashem. The pasuk should read, “וירא ה' אליו”, with Hashem’s name being written first. Why then is it switched in this pasuk?
In short, the Ohr HaChaim translates “אֵלָיו” “to him”, as “עליו” “on him”. Because Avraham now had a Bris Milah, Hashem placed his Shechinah upon Avraham permanently. Had the pasuk been written according to normal grammar rules, I would not have been able to translate the pasuk this way. For a more extensive explanation, see last year’s Dvar Torah. (Link included below.)
This year, I decided to explain this pasuk using a different commentator, the Kli Yakar. He asks a slightly different question on the pasuk than the Ohr HaChaim. Instead of asking on the order of the words, he asks why does the pasuk use the pronoun, “אֵלָיו”, instead of just saying Avraham’s name, “וירא ה' אל אברהם” “Hashem appeared to Avraham”? His first answer is that there are two reasons why Hashem would appear to someone, either because of a person’s position of greatness or because of his personal essence, meaning because of who that person fundamentally is. Avraham’s name in Hebrew is spelled אברהם, which is a combination of the phrase אב המון גוים, the “Father of Many Nations”. He was given this name because he became the father of the nations of Yisrael, Edom, and Yishmael amongst others. It would be very easy to assume that Hashem came to visit Avraham because of his important status of being the father of the most powerful future nations of the world, but in fact, Hashem appeared because Avraham himself was in essence a humble and righteous person. So the pasuk calls Avraham by a pronoun, “אֵלָיו”, to teach me that it was because of Avraham’s own special qualities that Hashem visited him and not because of his important status.
His second answer says exactly the opposite. Avraham’s original name was Avram, which was an abbreviation for the phrase, אב לארם, the “Father of Aram”, Avraham’s homeland. Chazal teach us that he was considered their father because he taught them about Hashem and brought them closer to Him. For this reason, he was worthy of being in the presence of the Shechinah. However, since he was still not circumcised, and therefore not complete in Hashem’s eyes, he was not worthy of it from his own standpoint. Now that he had a Bris, he was worthy of the Shechinah visiting him in his own right, leading the pasuk to write “אֵלָיו”. In order to prove to me that this was a result of the Bris, the pasuk tells me that Hashem appeared to him, “בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא” “in the plains of Mamre” (ibid.). Rashi explains that since Mamre gave Avraham advice on whether to do the Bris Milah in public or not (a different topic for a different time), Hashem rewarded him by appearing in his territory. Since the reason Hashem appeared in Mamre’s territory is connected to Bris, it follows that he spoke to Avraham at that time because of the Bris Milah.
Just as last year’s Dvar Torah pasuk still applies, so too does last year’s message still apply. Whichever answer you learn in the Kli Yakar, we see that Avraham reached a different level after he had his Bris Milah. He became worthy of having the Shechinah rest on him. This great mitzvah is still available to us today! This possibility of having the Shechinah rest on us still exists! Let us use the mitzvah of Bris Milah and all the other mitzvos as a reminder of the levels that we can reach by following the Torah. May we all become worthy of another complete revelation of Hashem’s Shechinah with the coming of Mashiach.
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