This week one of the top stories around the world has been the devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of America. Living as we do on Long Island we were being warned about the impending storm for several days. Located on a peninsula, and with water a block or two north, east and west of us, we were particularly aware of reports predicting surges and flooding. Sunday began with warnings about the impending storm, which quickly developed into a call for voluntary evacuation from our area, which eventually became a mandatory evacuation.
It is very unsettling being told to leave your home because of an impending hurricane , we packed a bag and made the house ready for any potential flooding. Amidst this difficult situation, there was also something quite wonderful as several people in the area got in touch, to check that we had a place to stay and offered us their spare rooms. While the imminent storm was making me quite tense and nervous; the multiple offers of hospitality and support were quite amazing.
I think that hospitality and opening up your home to those in need is one of the most important lessons which we learn from Abraham and Sarah. This week’s Torah portion begins with Abraham sitting ‘in the tent door in the heat of the day’ (Genesis 18:1). It is worth remembering that last week’s Torah portion ended with the circumcision of Abraham, Ishmael and all the males of his household. So he wasn’t just sitting out enjoying the sun, he was also recovering. And yet, when he looked up and saw three men near his tent, ‘he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the ground’ (Genesis 18:2).
Abraham would not let these strangers leave and insisted that they should come into his tent so that they might take a drink and rest. When he speaks to them he offers them a little water and a morsel of bread (Genesis 18:4-5). But when he comes into home he tells Sarah: ‘Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes’ (Genesis 18:6), while he ‘fetched a calf tender and good’ (Genesis 18:7) to prepare for them.
When Abraham saw someone in need he did not walk to help them, he ran to greet them. And when he brought them food he did not give them the bare essentials, he provided them with the best of his possessions.
After last week’s Torah portion we might ask why God chose Abraham. Beyond his obedience, it was unclear what God had seen in him to warrant the call of lech lecha. But as this week begins we begin to see the type of person that Abraham is, opening up his home and reaching out to help those in need.
Last week God promised Abraham that he would be a blessing, and this week we see how he lived his life to fulfill God’s words. Speaking personally I know that all of the people who offered us help and support, opening up their homes were our own blessings. Abraham sets an example for how we should treat each other, and in the aftermath of Sandy we can see how many people have followed his example, reaching out to help those in need.
I hope that it truly is a Shabbat shalom, a Shabbat of peace for all of us.
(apologies for any typos, this week it was a little tricky getting the blog up and online)
And if you want to listen to this Two Minutes of Torah: