How was Hashem’s appearing to Avrohom here different from other occasions?
(18,1) “And Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting in the entrance of the tent when the day was hot.”
The commentaries have explained that the difference between the prophecy of Moshe and the other prophets is that the other prophets needed preparation in order to receive their prophecy, and if they did not prepare themselves they did not merit the prophecy. But Moshe did not need preparation for prophecy, and Hashem spoke to him anytime. We see this from the matter of Miriam and Aharon, when Hashem called to them suddenly and demonstrated to them that they were not able to receive the prophecy suddenly like Moshe.
The same was true with Avrohom. Until now Hashem had not appeared to Avrohom except when Avrohom had prepared himself to receive the prophecy, and since he established the morning prayer we see that it was Avrohom’s way to prepare himself in the morning. But in the middle of the day he did not prepare himself for this. But now, he was unexpectedly honoured that Hashem appeared to him suddenly without preparation.
This is the meaning of the posuk: “and Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot”, and he had not prepared himself for this because it was when the day was hot, and the time of the morning prayers had passed. Therefore, it did not occur to him now that he would see the Divine Presence. But Hashem suddenly appeared to him to honour him after the circumcision, or in order to visit the sick. In fact, this is why Rashi explained that it was to visit the sick, and therefore it was Hashem’s initiative, and so it was not relevant that Avrohom should prepare himself.
Why does it repeat the phrase “he saw”?
(18,2) “And he lifted his eyes and saw…and he saw, and he ran to meet them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground.”
Chazal have already raised the question why it repeats the phrase “he saw”, see what Rashi writes on this. But it seems to me that we can explain it in two ways. The first is according to Chazal who taught that walking with long strides removes one five hundredth of one’s eyesight, but to run for the sake of a mitzvah is permitted. From this it is clear that if is for a mitzvah it does not do damage, and impair the eyesight, because “emissaries of a mitzvah will not get hurt”.
This is why it repeats the phrase “he saw”, so that you will not think that since he ran there must have been some damage to his eyes, and he would have not been able to see as well as before. Rather, since Avrohom’s intention was to perform a mitzvah, his eyesight was not damaged at all, because one who keeps a mitzvah will know no evil. Therefore, it says here “and he saw and he ran to meet them” - even though he ran he saw as well as before, and his running did not harm his eyesight.
Another way to explain it is that it is normal behaviour to walk with one’s eyes cast downward in order not to trip on something. Granted if a person walks slowly it is not necessary to look downwards, because even if he encounters a stone he will not be harmed since he is walking slowly. But if he is running then he should look down and not up. This is also clear from Rashi in the gemora Shabbos.
Therefore, the posuk wanted to relate that the great righteousness of Avrohom, that he was so conscientious in his performance of mitzvos that he was not concerned about himself at all, and even when he ran he did not look downwards, but rather he continued looking at the wayfarers as before, because he was worried that if he would look down perhaps they would change direction and he would not know where they went. Therefore he kept his eyes solely on them to keep track of them in order to run and meet them, and did worry about hurting himself at all. Thus is what the posuk says “and he saw, and he ran to meet them”, that even whilst he was running, he saw only them in order not to lose them, and from this we can see the great righteousness of Avrohom.
Why did Avrohom give preference to taking care of the guests?
(18,2) “And he lifted his eyes…and he saw, and he ran to meet them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground.”
The Midrash here comments: “and he saw and he ran to meet them” - he saw the Shechinah, he saw the angels. The meaning of this Midrash is not at all clear. But we can explain it according to that which I explained elsewhere, that the reason Chazal taught that taking care of guests takes precedence over welcoming the Shechinah (Divine Presence), is that since the guests have Tzelem Elokim (are made in the image of Hashem), therefore this is also like welcoming the Shechinah. Therefore, taking care of guests is both welcoming the Shechinah and welcoming guests.
However, this is true of a guest who has Tzelem Elokim, but with a wicked person who has had the Tzelem Elokim removed from him because he has become corrupted by sin this reason is not applicable. We are not experts to know who has Tzelem Elokim or not, but if Avrohom Avinu was able to see the Shechinah, then all the more so he was able to discern who has Tzelem Elokim, especially when the Shechinah was present to make a comparison with.
And therefore “he saw the Shechinah and he saw the guests” whether they had a G-dly appearance. This is what the posuk is saying, that after “he saw” that they were similar, then “he ran to meet them”, to do two things at one time - welcoming the Shechinah and the mitzvah to take care of guests.
Why did Avrohom have his guests eat under the tree, rather than bring them into his house?
(18,5) “And I will take a morsel of bread and sustain your hearts; afterwards you shall pass on, because you have passed by your servant. And they said: Do as you have spoken.”
I wrote elsewhere that the house of Avrohom was some distance from the plains of Mamre, not next to the tree. If so, why did he tell them to recline under the tree instead of bringing them into his house?
But it seems to me that really they wanted to go to his house immediately, but he opposed this. And the reason why he opposed this was because if a traveller passes through a city and he enters one of the houses and eats there, it is not clear what his intention is. Is his intention to honor the owner of the house, to show his love for him, or is his intention just to eat there for his personal benefit? But if he goes there and does not eat there, then it is clear to everyone that he only intends to honor the owner, to take pleasure in being with him, because otherwise why did he enter his house?
Here also,they wanted to go to his house immediately, but Avrohom said to them that if they would enter his house and eat there it would not be clear that they are coming to honor him. But if they first eat near the tree, since they would have already eaten and still they enter his house, it will be clear that they intend to honor him.
This is what the posuk is saying, “I will take a morsel of bread and sustain your hearts, and afterwards you shall pass on” to my house, because then it will be clear to everyone that it is “because you have passed by your servant” - to enter my house only for my honor, and not for your sake. But if you pass on to my house initially, it will not be clear that you are doing this for the sake of my honor.
But the truth is that Avrohom was not particular about his honor, and this was not his real intention. Rather, his real reason for not bringing them immediately into his house was because he suspected them of being Arabs (not the modern usage of this word), and he did not want to bring idolatry into his house. But it says in the Midrash that it was the way of Avrohom Avinu that after his guests had eaten he compelled them to accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven and to make a blessing after the meal, because if not tahy had to pay a very large sum of money for their food. Therefore, once they had accepted upon themselves the yoke of Heaven he could bring them into his house.
This was his real intention. But since he did not wish to tell them this he told them the reason that we mentioned above.
How did Avrohom assuage the worry of his guests?
(18,5) “And I will take a morsel of bread, and sustain your hearts; afterwards you shall pass on, because you have passed by your servant. And they said: Do as you have spoken.”
Another explanation of this posuk is that it is written in Megillas Ruth “the name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz”, on which Chazal taught that more than the person giving does for the poor person, the poor person does for the giver. And see what Alshich explained with this the posuk in parshas Terumah, “And they shall take for Me an offering”, that the posuk does not consider them as givers but rather as takers.
Now, it is normal that if a person is poor and has nothing to eat, then before he eats he is extremely desirous to eat, and because of his hunger he is not particular from whom he eats. But once he has already eaten, than he starts to realise that it is bread of shame (unearned benefit), and so he does not take much pleasure in this eating, since it comes from others. But if it comes from him, he would enjoy it more. But in truth, a poor person who understands correctly does not have to be concerned at all, since he does more good for the giver than the giver does for him, and causes him to receive much reward from this eating. If so, it is not at all included in the category of bread of shame.
This is what Avrohom said to his guests, that they should not worry if they eat by him, that after they have eaten they will be distressed that they ate from others. Because it is not so; I will not be considered as giving to you bread, but rather as taking. “And I will take a morsel of bread” - I will be considered a taker. I will take a morsel of bread from you, and I will merit to be sustained because of you. Therefore, “sustain your hearts, and afterwards you shall pass on”, and even after you pass on you will not be despondent, saying that you ate bread of shame, since in truth I am considered the taker. “Because you have passed by your servant” - for my benefit did Hashem bring you here, to give me merit, not for your benefit. Therefore this is not bread of shame.
Why was Sarah in Avrohom's tent?
(18,9) “And they said to him: Where is Sarah, your wife. And he said: Behold, in the tent (באהל).”
The word “behold” seems to be superfluous, since it should have been sufficient to simply say “in the tent”.
But it seems to me that it was not normal for Sarah to be in Avrohom’s tent because she had her own tent. Therefore, when it says earlier that “Avrohom hastened to the tent of Sarah (האהלה של שרה)”, the word for tent is written with a letter ה at the end - a feminine ending, but in our posuk which is referring to Avrohom’s tent it is written without this ending.
But right now, because Hashem wanted Sarah to hear the announcement from the mouth of the angel, He caused her to be brought into the tent of Avrohom. Thus Avrohom said “Behold, in the tent” - Behold! Unusually for her she is right now in my tent!