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“Run!,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

November 11, 2022 | 17 Cheshvan 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.  Some thoughts this week on the moral imperative to run toward that which is good and brings out kindness.

We regard Abraham and Sarah as the first to embrace a faith in God whom they could not see but could experience. Last week, they upheld the summons from an unfamiliar deity to go forth. The promise that would await them was a great name and blessing, a motivational pull toward someThing/someOne/someWay that could transform their lives. It was not fame that drove them forward but a faith in that which was larger than themselves.

In this week’s Torah portion, the voice of the narrator provides the exact point of what comes next. The Eternal appeared to [Abraham] by the small trees of Mamre. (Gen. 18:1) We might assume that what would follow would be a similar encounter from last week’s portion when God actually spoke to Abraham with the instructions to go forth, but that does not happen here. God becomes manifest in what happens next.

We find Abraham sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. He looks up and sees three people approaching. Instead of waiting for them to arrive, he ran toward them to greet them, to bow and then to offer them water, a place to rest, and some food.  It is clear he had no idea who they are. Yet, he was certain about the way to regard these strangers.

It is for this reason that our tradition attributes to Abraham the personification of loving-kindness. The Talmud (Shabbat 127) notes that hospitality to guests is greater than greeting the Divine Presence. In this story, Abraham actually does both. These three strangers turn out to have a divine mission to reveal to Abraham and Sarah that they will indeed give birth to their own child as the fulfillment of God’s promise to make their progeny as numerous as the sands in the sea and the stars in the sky. These strangers are actually angels.

We can make all kinds of assumptions of those who might approach us especially when we don’t know who they are. We teach our children to be weary of strangers, as they should, but as adults we can understand the nuance not always visible to the immature. When we are quick to accuse those foreign to us as thieves, murderers, and criminals, we have certainly presumed guilt before innocence.

We encounter people all the time, many of whom are strangers to us. Who knows? They may be a messenger of the Most High discovered by each of us simply by welcoming as an act of loving kindness.

Shabbat Shalom!

  • If you are in town, come join us for Qabbalat Shabbat featuring Artists-in-Residence, Rabbi Micah Lapidus and Melvin Kindall Myles. All are welcome to join this service full of prayer, meditation, and music. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or livestream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Riverway gathers at 7:00 p.m. Register to participate onsite hereRegister to participate online here.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • A delightful Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. onsite and online! We begin with a short, informal morning service and then moves into an engaging, welcoming, and inclusive Torah study for everyone and anyone. To join the conversation interactively online, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Gather onsite and online for Malaveh Malka: Concert and Havdalah with Artists-in-Residence Rabbi Micah Lapidus and Melvin Myles. Onsite reception begins at 7:00 p.m. Concert and Havdalah begin at 7:30 p.m.. Join onsite or on Zoom.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher