This week Vayera opens with Avraham sitting in his tent. In the opening words of this parashah, God appeared to Avraham, but then in the next verse we read that Avraham lifted his eyes and perceived three men were standing over him. And then he ran towards them.
I find this sequence confusing – who actually appeared to Abraham? God? Three men? Three Angels? And if they were standing over him, to whom did Avraham run towards?
Surely if someone is standing over you, you just look up! What is going on?
Rashi teaches that the three “men” were actually three angels, Michael, Raphael, Gavriel, disguised as humans. Each of these angels came to bring a specific message to Avraham: Michael, that Sarah would have a child, Gavriel, that God would destroy Sodom, and Raphael would heal Avraham from his circumcision.
Rashi continues to teach about the work of these angels, teaching that each angel has one specific job. “One angel does not perform two missions.” I resonated with this teaching – even as many of us try to multi-task, imagine if we considered ourselves to be like these angels – we have one mission. Now, of course, out of practical necessity, those missions of ours would need to be continuous and sequential – but there is a reminder here to look, to pay attention. Perhaps that unity of attention and purpose calls us to see what is right in front of us.
Sometimes even when we are in very close proximity with someone, we can still experience distance from them – and running to do a mitzvah might close such a gap. Avraham running to greet and then create a feast for his guests – whoever they are – exemplifies his capacity to understand that even a spark of distance when seemingly in proximity, can generate a welcome, an excitement of inclusion that comes with such preparations.
May this be a week of seeing with clarity, and may it be a week of welcome.Affectionately,Rabbi Lynn