The Torah reading of the present week describes the hospitality of our Patriarch Abraham, how he would provide wayfarers with food, drink, and lodging in desert regions. Moreover, not only did he provide them with their needs, he did so in a gracious and friendly manner. This kindness was granted equally to everyone. As evident from the beginning of the Torah reading, he thought that his three visitors were Arabs who bowed down to the dust on their feet, and yet he treated them regally. Indeed, the sages of the Kabbalah tell us that G‑d’s own attribute of kindness declared: “From the time Abraham has existed on the earth, I have nothing to do. Abraham is acting in my stead.”

Nevertheless, this was not merely a spontaneous expression of kindness. After offering hospitality, Abraham would ask his guests to bless G‑d. If they refused, he would turn extremely stern, demanding high payment for the food and drink he offered them. When they reacted with surprise, he would explain: “What prices would you expect to pay for food in the desert? Either bless G‑d or pay.”

Why was he able to change from kindness to severity? Because his kindness was not merely an expression of his natural tendency, but a purposeful act. He was kind because this approach made others aware of G‑d. Abraham’s life was dedicated to making G‑d’s presence known throughout the world; everything he did was directed to that intent. Instead of expressing his natural tendencies spontaneously, he harnessed them to achieve his purpose.

One may yet ask: When faced with the choice of blessing G‑d or paying, isn’t it obvious what a person will do? Why did Abraham consider it so important to have a person make what on the surface appears as merely a superficial declaration?

Abraham looked into the depths of a person’s heart. At that level, there is an innate, natural recognition of G‑d. A person believes — not because it is logical or rational, but because his inner essence is G‑dly.

Often, however, this essential core does not rise to the forefront. Our conscious minds are often involved with other matters, some trivial, some seemingly important, but primarily, our thoughts are focused on our own lives and we are not concerned with our G‑dly core.

Abraham wanted to arouse and awaken his guests. For some, a soft reminder was sufficient. As soon as they were asked to thank G‑d, they happily acknowledged Him.

Others were more engrossed in their own matters to the extent that they would not agree to Abraham’s request. These individuals had to be shocked and shaken. To allow their appreciation of G‑d to shine through, Abraham had to break the coarse shell that surrounded their thinking processes. And this could not be done gently. He had to be forceful and strong, unrelentingly demanding payment.

Looking to the Horizon

When speaking about the Abraham’s showing hospitality to his guests, the Torah states: “And he called forth the name of the eternal G‑d.” The Rabbis comment: Don’t read “He called forth,” rather read “he had others call forth.” As explained above, he motivated others to call out to G‑d.

They also explain that the Hebrew term translated as “the eternal G‑d,” א-ל עולם, can also be understood as “G‑d of the world.” There is, however, no connecting letter to indicate the word “of.” But that is what Abraham taught: that G‑d is not the G‑d of the world, but that the world and G‑d are one. Every entity in the world is an expression of Him.

In the present era, however, this concept is a point of faith. We believe it, but we don’t see it, nor is it part of the way we look at the world. In the era of Mashiach, this will change. G‑d’s oneness will be perceived openly throughout creation. As the prophet states: “And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the water covers the ocean bed.” By emulating Abraham’s example and making others aware of G‑d, we create a setting for these truths to blossom forth.