Vayeira: Healing by the Trees of Mamre

terebintheThe Lord appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot.Genesis 18:1 (JPS Tanakh)

When Rabbi Sholem Dov Ber, the fifth of the Lubavitcher Rebbeim, was a young child, he was taken to his grandfather the Tzemach Tzedek for a birthday blessing. When he entered his grandfather’s room, he began to cry.

After calming him, his grandfather asked him the reason for his tears. The child replied: “In cheder, we learned that G-d revealed Himself to Avraham. Why doesn’t He reveal Himself to me?”

The Tzemach Tzedek replied: “When a Jew who is 99 years old recognizes that he must circumcise himself, he deserves that G-d reveal Himself to him.”

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“Seeing Truth: The Nature of the Revelation to Avraham”
Adapted from Likkutei Sic hos, Vol. X, p. 49ff;
Sichos Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5749, 5750, 5751, 5752

We have a tremendous need to hear from God. On Facebook, my friends Joe and Heidi Hendricks often express their love of God, their enormous faith, and their need to hear from God, as they describe the battle with cancer they must both endure. Recently Joe wrote:

Cancer crazy thinking..

Maybe if I make the coffee a little stronger, Heidi’s white blood cell counts will be better today at SCCA. Maybe if I get her to laugh harder the scan won’t show any new tumors. Maybe if I workout a little longer I can force her cancer away.

Then I think.. No, that’s crazy thinking – we’re doing OK, we’re doing the best we can, shut up and let God & the medical team handle it.


In the face of the battles we wage in the world round us and sometimes within our own bodies, we don’t just want to hear from God, we need to hear from God. As a child, Rabbi Sholem Dov Ber needed to hear from God. At some point, we all do. Rabbi Touger continues to comment on this.

The desire for a direct bond with G-d is a fundamental element of every person’s makeup. When the Rebbe Rashab came to his grandfather for a birthday blessing, he merely expressed this longing.

The moral of the story is universal. Within every one of us there is a simple, childlike dimension that yearns to cleave to G-d. Without ceasing to function as mature individuals, each of us can share an all-encompassing relationship with G-d.

The above is particularly relevant in the present age, brief moments before Mashiach’s coming. For the essence of the Era of the Redemption will be the direct revelation of G-d; “Your Master will conceal Himself no longer, and your eyes will perceive your Master.” As we stand on the threshold of this era, the inner thirst can be felt more powerfully.

Moreover, the potential exists to experience a foretaste of the Redemption in the present age. We can develop an awareness of G-d and recognize Him as an actual force pervading every aspect of our lives.

teaching-childrenAlthough Rabbi Touger doesn’t say so explicitly, there seems to be some sort of connection between our need to have a connection with God as a childlike quality and the nearness of the Messiah as redeemer. Certainly, the Master expressed the same thing “in a nutshell”.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” –Matthew 19:14 (NASB)

Rabbi Touger quotes Amos 8:11 when he says:

“Days are coming…, [when people will be] hungry, but not for bread; thirsty, but not for water, but to hear the word of G-d.” Only at times, as in the story of the Rebbe Rashab, is this thirst consciously expressed. In most instances, a person will be unaware of his own thirst. Nevertheless, when we emulate Avraham’s example and extend ourselves to others, we will discover an eager readiness to respond that reflects their inner need.

We are all hungry for the “bread” of God.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” –Matthew 4:4

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. –Matthew 5:6

According to the midrash for Torah Portion Vayeira, when Abraham was “sitting at the entrance of the tent” in the heat of the day, he was waiting for something. He probably didn’t know the three “travelers” were going to appear when they did, but Rabbinic commentary says he was waiting to perform deeds of kindness to bring others closer to God. In response, God showed Abraham kindness, fed him with “the bread of life” (John 6:35), and drew nearer to Abraham than He had before. It is also believed that God, in appearing to Abraham three days after the prophet’s circumcision, lived out the commandment to visit the sick and that He healed Abraham.

May God draw nearer to all of us, may He feed us, and may He heal us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed. –Isaiah 53:5

As we learned before, “Your Master will conceal Himself no longer, and your eyes will perceive your Master.” We also have a lesson for this.

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. –Revelation 22:3-4

Good Shabbos.

2 thoughts on “Vayeira: Healing by the Trees of Mamre”

  1. Thanks James, for a powerful reminder of faith’s childlike yearning and also for the kind quote.
    Blessings, Joe

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