וירא אליו ה' באלני ממרא והוא יושב פתח האהל כחום היום.
“And Hashem revealed himself to him [Avrohom] on the property of Mamrei; and he sat at the opening of his tent, in the heat of the day.” (Bereishis 18:1)
The commentators ask why the verse doesn’t mention Avrohom’s name, but only says “to him.” Furthermore, why does the verse specify that this encounter took place on the property of Mamrei, and why is the heat of the day mentioned? Although our sages give explanations for all of this, we know that the words in the Torah are eternal and apply to each Jew, in every generation. What message do these details carry for us today?
The Gemara (Avoda Zara 3a) tells us that at the End of Days when Hashem will reward His beloved children, the nations will come forth and demand to be rewarded as well. Hashem will tell them that only the Jewish people kept the Torah, and therefore only they deserve reward. The nations will respond: “We also want to keep the Torah! We are ready to accept the Torah right now!” Hashem will tell them, “Fine, I will test you with one mitzvah. There is an easy mitzvah called Sukkah. Go and build sukkahs for yourselves and let’s see if you can fulfill this commandment as required.” The nations will think, ‘this is easy!’ and run off to build their sukkahs. Hashem will then take the sun out of its cover and it will become scorching hot. The nations will not be able to bear the heat and they will leave their sukkahs, giving a few parting kicks before escaping to their cool homes. This will prove that they were not really committed to serving Hashem; they only perform a mitzvah if it comes easy to them, but at the slightest discomfort they lose interest.
The obvious question about this is, that we Jews are also exempt from sitting in the sukkah if it is uncomfortable, as the halacha states: “One who is distressed is exempt from the mitzvah of sukkah.” If so, why will the nations be liable for leaving the sukkah when conditions become unbearable?
The difference between the Jewish people and the other nations is that when a Jew cannot perform a mitzvah, he is pained over his inability to do Hashem’s will. If a Jew must leave the sukkah, he does so with sadness. On the other hand, the nations will kick the sukkah as they leave, making it very clear that they never truly wanted to do this mitzvah in the first place.
On Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur, we proclaim in shul: “[Hashem is] the King!” During the Days of Awe we try to act like true servants of our King. Most people keep the mitzvos more stringently and spend more time learning Torah. But after the High Holidays are over, many people return to their old habits and forget how fervently they cried out to Hashem that He is the King.
The Bnei Shelishim quotes the verse in Tehillim (48:5-7): “Behold, the kings have gathered and passed together [to do battle with Jerusalem]. A great fear took hold of them there, a fear of a woman giving birth.” He would interpret it as follows: “Behold, the days that we cried ‘the King’ were gathered, and they passed.” And now that these days passed, we are back to our old selves. But how could this be? After all, “a great fear took hold” of us during those days. Why did our commitments not last? Because it was “the fear of a woman giving birth.” Our sages tell us (Niddah 31b) that a woman must bring a sacrifice after giving birth to atone for the false vows she made while in her pain. Similarly, during the High Holidays we vow to become better because we are overcome with fear, but after the Days of Awe pass many people forget their commitments.
Hashem says in the Torah (Devarim 31:18): “And I will hide and conceal My face on that day,” which means that Hashem will conceal Himself from us. There is a famous story about the tzaddik Rebbe Baruch’l and his brother the Degel Machne Ephraim when they were children. During a game of hide-and-seek, of the boys hid under the table where his grandfather, the holy Baal Shem Tov, was sitting. Suddenly, the grandfather hears his grandchild crying. “Why are you crying, my dear?” he asked the child. “Because I’m hiding here waiting for my brother to come looking for me, but he ran off to play and forgot to look for me!” the child sobbed. Hearing this, the Baal Shem Tov began to cry and said: “The Ribono shel Olam is hiding His Face in this long exile and He is waiting for us to look for Him! That is the purpose of His concealment! How sad when nobody comes looking for Him!”
We see from all of this that when a Jew is able to do what he truly wants without the yetzer hara’s influence, he strives to find Hashem. He will search for Him and aim to do His will. This is proven by our intense spiritual avoda during the Days of Awe, and on Yom Kippur especially – a day on which the yetzer hara has no power. So why are we unable to maintain the same level of avodas Hashem throughout the entire year? This is only because of the yetzer hara’s tireless manipulations.
The word “Mamrei” can mean to be rebellious (see Devarim 9:7). The yetzer hara doesn’t stop trying to make us to rebel against Hashem, r”l. If not for him, every Jew would be a dedicated servant of Hashem at all times. Hashem knows that this is true, because He searches every heart.
This is the meaning of the verse in this week’s Sidra. Even though we have been exiled for almost 2,000 years and Hashem has concealed Himself from us for so long, the time will come when “Hashem will reveal himself to him.” The verse doesn’t say Avrohom’s name, because it is referring to each and every Jew, wherever he may be, even if he will be in a state of “Mamrei” – rebelliousness. Hashem will still reveal His presence to every Jew, regardless of his spiritual level. Hashem’s love for His children will then be apparent to all. How will Hashem demonstrate that every Jew is close to Him, even if he unfortunately strayed from Hashem? By commanding “to sit at the opening of his tent in the heat of the day” which refers to the mitzvah of sukkah with which Hashem will test the nations. On that day, when the nations will abandon their sukkahs with contempt for this precious mitzvah, it will be proven that a Jew, no matter how distanced from Hashem, is still close to him, in contrast to the other nations of the world. The non-Jew kicks the sukkah, and the Jew, if unable to perform a mitzvah, is saddened by this. Every Jew wants to be close to Hashem, even if he is unable to overcome his yetzer hara sometimes.
May we indeed merit seeing the return of Hashem’s Presence to Zion, when He will reveal Himself to each and every Jew and bring us close to Him like never before. And until that time, may Hashem help every Jew with whatever he may need, and send refuahs and yeshuas to all. May we be zoche to the ultimate consolation, when we will all greet Moshiach together, Amen.