In this week’s Portion, Vayerah, the Torah speaks explicitly and extendedly about Abraham’s special attitude towards the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim (Hospitality). It is known that Abraham was still recuperating from the painful circumcision, but only three days after the brit, he was already sitting at the opening of is tent…
Rashi questions: Why did he sit at the opening? And answer: “To see those who pass and invite them in”.
We know how much Abraham went out of his way to show good hospitality to the angels. Ran to the livestock, slaughtered a cow, baked cakes, brought a bowl to wash their feet.
While physically still “grieving” the Mitzvah of circumcision (Brit Milah), he found the strength to serve G-D by fulfilling the Mitzvah of hospitality (Hachnasat Orchim).
But in our portion we have yet another story of hospitality given by Lot, the son of Abraham’s brother…
He too knew how to fulfill this Mitzvah!
When the angels came to announce the upcoming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot too sat at the city gates of Sodom, got up, walked towards them and invited them to his home. Why if this is so is only Abraham our father written in the texts of the Sages as an outstanding provider of hospitality, and no one speaks about the quality of Lot?
There is a story told of the famous Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, who, in his travels, came to the city of L'vov.
Seeking a lodging place, he approached one of the wealthy townsmen, and, without identifying himself, asked for a place to stay. The wealthy man yelled at him angrily, "We don't need wayfarers here. Go to a hotel."
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak then approached a poor Melamed (teacher), who welcomed him graciously, offering him food to eat and a place to sleep.
On the way to the poor man's house, someone recognized Rabbi Levi Yitzchak as the famed Rabbi of Berditchev. Soon all the townsfolk came out to greet and see the face of the venerable Rabbi. Among them of course was the wealthy man, who proceeded to ask for forgiveness, and beseeched the Rabbi to stay with him at his home.
In response, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak turned to the gathered people and said, "Do you know the difference between Abraham, our Father of blessed memory, and Lot? Why does scripture go into such detail about the full meal Abraham served the angels? After all, Lot also baked matzos and prepared a feast for his guests? Why is Abraham's hospitality considered special and not Lot's?". Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev answered his own question by pointing out that when the guests came to Lot, scripture states (Genesis 19:1), "The two angels (malachim) came to Sodom". Whereas with Abraham the Torah says (Genesis 18:2) "And behold he saw three people (anashim) standing upon him". Lot saw angels! Who wouldn't accept angels into his home? Whereas, Abraham saw poor wanderers, ragged, fatigued and covered with dust, in need of a placed to rest and a little food.
Lot too knew how to act; he too knew the meaning of hospitality. But he had a flaw in his heart. He only knew how to provide hospitality, for appearance’s sake.
May it be God’s will that the verse "Purify our heart to serve You sincerely" be fulfilled in our lives.