In Parshas Vayeira HaShem appeared to Avraham — an agreed enviable experience. It is vital for a Jew who wishes to understand his life, to realize that this story, as with all other stories occur at various levels. Children in Yeshivah must firstly learn that the story happened in actuality. HaShem really appeared to Avraham. But more deeply HaShem continues to appear to Am Yisrael (Avraham).

The Rebbe Rashab, when a child of five, in tears, asked his grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek why HaShem appeared to Avraham and not to him.1 This is an extraordinary question. Since the Torah is eternal, and since there is no story in Torah without application to every single Jew, then, it must be that there is a potential for HaShem to appear to the little boy too. We will learn the grandfather’s answer together.

HaShem appeared to Avraham who was 99 years of age and who had just performed his own Bris Milah (circumcision). He was sitting in the desert, in pain, with his tent opened to the North, South, East and West, waiting for visitors. His technique was to wait for guests, ready to serve them food and drink. Since Avraham was exceedingly wealthy,2 he fed them fabulous food. When ultimately visited by three angels, the Torah relates that he gave them each a whole tongue pickled in mustard. To do so Avraham had selected and slaughtered from his flock three beasts. The third day after his Bris Milah (which Rashi explains is the most painful), and at 99 years of age, Avraham eagerly waited for visitors to tend to their needs. It is then at that moment, that HaShem appeared to him. Clearly therefore, attending to the needs of guests is a crucial mitzvah. Apart from the practical help given to disorientated and vulnerable people there is a more general and fundamental aspect of this mitzvah for a Jew.

The story is told of the circumstances surrounding the birth of two tzaddikim, Reb Zusha and his brother, Reb Elimelech. An innkeeper couple one night took in a group of poor and dirty traveling Jews. The couple, then childless, welcomed them, giving them food, drink and beds for the night. Because the little band were dirty, the couple drew water for them in the bath house (then a considerable undertaking). After the grateful, now-clean visitors made their way to their beds, one of the beggars remained. He, covered in the most terrible sores, could not share the water with others. He washed last, finding washing difficult, both because of his repulsive appearance and because of the pain from contact with the water. Ignoring the weeping sores, the innkeeper’s wife washed and tended to him. When she had finished, the disfigured guest smiled grotesquely at her and blessed her with immediate pregnancy. She nearly fainted with shock however, to then hear the creature add that she should be blessed with children like him! She ran in fear to her husband and, turning to point to the disfigured source of her blessing, she saw to her amazement that he and the whole crowd had totally disappeared.

In due course, Reb Zusha and Reb Elimelech were born to her. The woman and her husband understood that they had been subjected to a test and that in their triumph they were rewarded with an aspect of HaShem’s Presence — tzaddikim as children.

We learn further that no matter how important it is to have visitors, to look after them, to feed them properly and to tend to whatever is necessary for them, at a wider level it is even more important to reach out to them first.

HaShem appeared to Avraham and from here we learn the mitzvah of visiting the sick. Additionally, HaShem was visiting a sick person at a time when the sick person was immersed in the mitzvah of welcoming guests. In other words, HaShem appears to Avraham at such time as these two mitzvahs are both present and both critically focused.

The secret of Torah mentioned before (that we live with the weekly Sedra), contains in it the fact that the deeds of the Avos (Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov) are a beacon radiating signs to Am Yisrael throughout history. This light is available to all Jews as they travel. The two mitzvos of seeking guests and visiting the sick are so central to a Jew’s very purpose in life they become together the trigger which makes HaShem appear. HaShem’s appearance to Avraham is celebrated in each generation and specifically in each week of Vayeira when there is highlighted the glow of opportunity for every Jew to have the moment repeated. Providing his dedication to welcoming guests is absolutely total and his commitment to tending to the sick is complete, a Jew can host HaShem’s Presence! When a Jew performs acts of kindness to other human beings, he merits to have HaShem appear to him and can even demand it.

With the benefit of Chassidus we can identify not only why HaShem appeared to Avraham at that time but also how to structure an appearance at a personal level — most easily during this week.

Does this mean that everyone performing a kind deed or two can merit HaShem appearing to him? Regrettably, as we all know, the answer is no. It is therefore critical to understand the conditions under which the appearance took place (and does still). The issue is not one of tolerating guests — even graciously. The concept involves actively going out to, and actively pursuing, potential guests. Avraham’s habit was to entice wayfarers for a sumptuous meal of tongue and mustard together with accouterments. When they finished, he would require his guests to thank HaShem for the food. If they refused, he would charge for the meal. The price of three cows slaughtered merely for their tongues, eclipsed by even those charged by modern Kosher restaurants. Visitors were faced with the choice of either making a berachah to HaShem acknowledging His Unity in the world or, if they preferred, paying for the meal. Avraham was achieving two results. He actively welcomed guests and he was also spreading Torah; spreading an awareness of the existence, unity and experience of G‑d.

The key then to appearance is the active pursuit of endowing good, real good, to others. Additionally, like Avraham, a Jew must turn his home, no matter how temporary, into a place of Torah.

In our generation the hungry are those hungry for spirituality. Our test is not focused on feeding someone with food, because today, thank G‑d, everyone has what to eat. The test in this generation, explains the Rebbe, is much more difficult. There is great poverty and need amongst Jewry, in people who have enough to eat physically, but are literally starving for the food and drink of legitimate spirituality. Yet merely doing something small is not enough. It has to be done even at 99, in pain, putting aside personal comfort. Indeed if somebody is starving to death, it does not help him to meet a charitable person relying on the fact that he fed a pauper three months ago. The previous generosity does not alleviate the pauper’s present hunger whatsoever. He needs to be fed now, irrespective of how many people were fed previously.

The Rebbe has explained that for the first time in history, Jews are generally speaking, sufficiently financially endowed to the point that nobody is starving. Nevertheless, there is an absolute explosion in our generation of Jews who know no Torah and who, whether they know it or not, ache for it. Many live confused and unhappy lives trying to compensate more and more with the sustenance which is suitable for Gentiles. The more they are hungry, the more of the same lack of sustenance they pursue. As we will see, Jewish satisfaction, peace of mind, contentment and nachas are directly involved in their involvement with Torah and mitzvos. Conversely, those people without Torah and mitzvos cannot, in the long term, be fulfilled and happy.

The Solution? The key to have HaShem appear in personal dialogue? Go find strangers, hold them, sit them down and give them the best. Not just a crumb or two, the best; at least spiritual tongue pickled in mustard. The very best one’s education and resources can afford. If a person protests that he cannot teach anybody as he does not know himself, let him learn. Learn Alef, Beis and Gimmel and teach another Alef and Beis. When a man is out finding Jews to feed with Torah, to sustain with acts of kindness, for their sake, not his, then we are promised HaShem will appear to him.

We can however ask a question. Why don’t those doing this holy work report technicolor visitations? How come they do not see HaShem? The answer is that they do, but this must be understood. There are different levels of appearance. The fact that one does not see something does not mean that it is not here. It is possible for various realities to exist at one time oblivious of the other. For example, a father and son-in-law can walk to see a brand new granddaughter/daughter on Yom Tov garbed in Shabbos clothes and filled with the joy of the new birth. For them it is not only Yom Tov but a special birthday. To those on the other hand attending a football match at a stadium they pass, the day is football-day. Both are correct. Both realities co-exist. The fact that the audience is going to the football stadium is irrelevant to the Jews’ Yom Tov and their Yom Tov is irrelevant to the football fans. The fact that a Jew does not see that HaShem is appearing to him does not mean that He is not. The Jew will feel the benefit either immediately or in due course. He simply is not perceiving the appearance at a given point of time.

More deeply, because one does not hear or see something physically does not mean that the neshamah is not hearing it or seeing it. We know for example of the benefit of placing the picture of a tzaddik in a baby’s crib so that the baby should see the tzaddik’s face. We do not believe that the baby is looking at the tzaddik’s face with its eyes, but we believe that the neshamah has a level of perception which is taking in the photograph of the tzaddik. Furthermore, adults exposed to a tzaddik have experienced his electricity without understanding his words. There is some signal received at some level by the neshamah.

Given the above ingredients HaShem appears at this level. The effect is clear. A glow of satisfaction, a feeling of purpose and a security which comes from personal fulfillment.

The deepest level of this appearance will be when Moshiach’s presence becomes obvious. Then, all the acts of kindness and goodness that every Jew in history has done will materialize in a visible manner and we will be favored by the ultimate appearance — a world revelation of G‑dliness. The process will be visible in the times of Moshiach, the time when the lamb will lie down with the wolf and when there will be no hunger and no misery. There will then be a revelation of G‑dliness exactly as it occurs in this week’s Sedra. The revelation of G‑dliness to Avraham is the revelation of G‑dliness available to Am Yisrael in the manner we have learned. The opportunity to see this shine occurs most of all in this week.