Parshas Vayeira begins with Avraham Avinu welcoming guests into his tent. While Avraham’s propensity for chessed and Hachnasas Orchim is well-documented in Chazal, this is the only occurrence in the Torah where his kindness is extensively detailed. The situation at the time, Avraham was recovering from surgery and it was an extremely hot day, make it the best example to demonstrate this great middah of his.
The three “guests”, actually angels in disguise, were ערביים, Arabs. When Avraham goes to greet them and invite them inside, he makes a strange request. “יֻקַּח־נָ֣א מְעַט־מַ֔יִם וְרַֽחֲצ֖וּ רַגְלֵיכֶ֑ם” “Please take a little bit of water and wash your feet” (Bereishis 18:4). Rashi explains that Arabs would worship the dust, so in order to make sure no Avoda Zara was brought into his house, Avraham made them wash the dust off their feet.
It is difficult for us to understand the draw of Avoda Zara today, but some are easier to understand than others. To worship the sun or the moon might make sense; they ‘rule’ the sky and they might be the symbols that most represent day to day life. An argument could be made for certain majestic animals or scenery. But why dust? What is so amazing about it that would lead someone to worship it as a god?
I heard an explanation in the name of the Maharal that provides us with an explanation as well as an important lesson.
The ancient Arabs (and their modern-day descendants) were extremely dedicated to ‘god’, so much so that they wanted to make everything they did a holy experience. However, they wouldn’t try to find out what god wanted from them, they simply decided that whatever they were doing at the time, regardless of what it was, was what he wanted from them. Therefore, they were always doing exactly what god wanted from them! And they would do it 110%.
Therefore, even the dust under their feet was holy; since the journey they were on was a ‘mission’ from god, the dust on their feet was a part of this holy mission and connected them to their gods. So Avraham made them wash off even the dust to remove any potential connection to their worship.
It is this idea of complete dedication that has made them such a dangerous enemy throughout time. They are completely dedicated to their idea of god, and they are in complete harmony with ‘him’. Their fight is with man, and specifically, us. The only way to counteract this mindset is to counter it with complete dedication of our own.
In this week’s parsha, we see Avraham recovering from his bris milah, we see him desperately looking for guests, we see him praying to Hashem to save the city of Sedom and the surrounding area- a place where there was not even one righteous individual, and finally, we see Avraham willing to sacrifice his only and beloved son, Yitzchak. All this in the name of serving Hashem. This is complete dedication; this is what it takes to be 100% committed to being a true servant of Hashem.
If we hope to defeat our enemies, we must look to Avraham Avinu and commit ourselves 100% to serving Hashem, and even better for us, we know how He should be served! With this, we should all have a tremendous zchus to see true bracha and yeshua!
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