"Abraham planted an orchard in Beer-Sheba and there called out in the name of the L-rd."—Genesis 21:33

After discovering the truth about the one G‑d as a child, Abraham spent the rest of his life spreading the message of monotheism throughout the world. One of his tactics, as described in this week's portion, is that he would establish himself in a barren spot in the desert and set up a tent to create a lodging place for travelers. Whenever people would pass by, he would invite them in and lavish them with fine delicacies to eat. Abraham would talk to his guests about his belief in G‑d, and open their eyes to a new way of living. At the end of the meal, when his guests would thank him, Abraham would tell them not to thank him, but to bless "Him from Whose food you have eaten."

Sometimes it would happen that a guest would refuse to recite a prayer of thanks, in which case Abraham would then present the guest with an exorbitant bill, and demand payment for the meal. When unable to pay, the guest would agree to thank G‑d.

The question is: Why did Abraham bother to coerce stubborn guests into reciting this prayer? If they did not believe, then his pressuring them would only succeed in extracting outward compliance, not genuine devotion. What was the value of forcing his guests to pay lip service to a belief in G‑d; it was, after all, insincere?

The answer is that Abraham was not interested in his guests feigning a belief in G‑d. He sought to, and succeeded in, bringing them to a genuine faith.

What Abraham realized is that when a person puts up a wall against G‑d, it is a sign of a coarse and rigid ego. After granting the person hospitality and speaking so convincingly about his beliefs, only a person consumed by arrogant self-reliance would be so stubborn as to refuse to acknowledge G‑d by offering thanks for his food. Accordingly, Abraham would cast such a person into the predicament of not being able to pay for his meal in order to break down this willful self-pride. The ego had been tactically crushed and the obstacle to faith was removed. The guest became naturally receptive to embracing all of the ideas that Abraham had taught him during his stay.

The lesson to us is not that we need to bring about a state of helplessness in others in order to lead them to become more open to pursuing a relationship with G‑d. Such maneuvers are the right of spiritual giants, completely selfless people like Abraham.

What we can take from this, is to apply this principle to ourselves, and realize how our sensitivity to G‑d is inversely proportionate to the degree of our feelings of self-reliance. The more prideful and sure of ourselves we are, the less open we are to G‑d. It was, after all, only after we hit our "bottom" that we finally became willing to allow G‑d to fully enter our lives. Many of us believed in G‑d long before coming to recovery; yet surrendering our addiction to Him was impossible—until such time as we were suitably crushed by our burdens that we had no other choice than admitting to utter defeat.

Even in recovery, we fluctuate in the firmness of our faith. These ups and downs do not happen by chance. When we take a close and honest look, we find out that the fluctuation is a result of our own flirting with self-pride.