The Shechinah can be Seen in the Wayfarer

The following text by Reb Zalman is for this week’s Torah portion, Shabbos Vayera. (Click here for Hebrew/English version). [Notes by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor]:

And He appeared unto him” (Genesis 18:1).

(Shabbos 127a) “Hospitality to wayfarers is more important than an encounter with the Shechinah / in-dwelling of God.”  

[NOTE:  Avraham interrupted his union with Hashem, (Genesis, 18:1, “Vayera / and God appeared), so that he could take care of the visitors who showed up in the meantime (ibid 18:3, “Adonay please pass not from thy servant.”)  The Rabbis took the word Adonay in this context as referring to God.  (It is also sometimes translated as referring to the visitors.)  The Talmud makes the above conclusion, that one should give precedence, as Avraham did, to an opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnassat orchim / hospitality to the wayfarers, over a union with God.]

For Abraham came to be a host to the wayfarers amidst that sense of cleaving during the encounter with the Shechinah, for there was a sense that he would see the holy Shechinah in the wayfarers.

[NOTE:  As Reb Zalman has spoken in lectures, even greater than the heresy of making God too small is the heresy of making ourselves too small vis-a-vis God.  In addition to the good feeling we will have when we perform the mitzvah of hachnassat orchim, we should also remember that the Shechinah is accessible when we do so; in fact she is there in our guests and in all of us.]

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
from Yishmiru Daat (2009 revision),
Parashat Vayera Eilav,” pp. 30-31

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