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Parshas Vayera: Under The Tree

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Rav Soloveitchik explained that there is a deeper significance to Avraham asking them to wash their feet. The average mortal assumes that existence and creation is only as intricate as the eyes can see and senses appreciate. Avraham assumed these nomads were no different and could see no further than the dust of their own feet.

He therefore asked them to wash, washing away their juvenile understanding of the world. “Let some water be brought and wash your feet, and recline beneath the tree.[4]” Avraham requested that they make themselves comfortable under the tree, for it was the tree that was the basis of his teaching. As they settled comfortably, Avraham would challenge them to consider the beauty of the tree, eventually extending beyond the treetop to the heavens, the stars, and ultimately to the vast expanse of the universe.

The Ramban writes[5], “Through recalling the great manifest miracles a person acknowledges the hidden miracles (of everyday life) which are the foundation of the entire Torah. For a person has no share in the Torah of our teacher Moshe until he believes that all our affairs and experiences are miracles; that there is no element of nature, or ‘ordinary course of the world,’ whether regarding the community or the individual.”

 

Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l was legendary for studying and preaching about the wonders of creation, and the love and connection to G-d that one can feel through such analysis and thought. He gave numerous lectures about the wonders of oranges, apples, elephants, and flies.

He related that, when he was a student learning in the famed Slobodka Yeshiva in Lithuania, during the summer break he often went on excursions and hikes in the nearby mountains. On one occasion he sat and stared at a flower for over an hour. He reported that it was the most spiritual experience he ever had in his life.

G-d does not need to prove Himself to us. The legacy of Avraham, the progenitor of Klal Yisroel, is to seek out G-d in the mundane. One who can recognize the miraculous in the mundane realizes that all of life is supernatural. Conversely, one who fails to see the divine hand in the mundane may very well fail to appreciate the supernatural.

Avraham merited many miracles during his lifetime, including emerging from a blazing furnace alive and fighting off a four-nation army almost singlehandedly. But none of that occurred until Avraham recognized that there was a Creator through sheer logic and pondering.

The Medrash[6] writes, “G-d said to Avram, ‘Go for yourself from your land’” (Bereishis 12:1).  Rabi Yitzchok said: This may be compared to one who was passing from place to place and saw a (birah dolekes) fortress illuminated/burning. He said, “Will you say this fortress has no governor (manhig)? The master (ba’al) of the fortress peeped out (hetziz) at him, and he said to him, “I am the master of the fortress.”

“Thus, because our father Avraham would say, ‘Can one say this world has no governor?’ The Holy One, blessed is He, peeked out at him and said to him, ‘I am the Master of the world’”

 

The Kotzker Rebbe once commented that he cannot comprehend how people do not become believers in G-d, simply from the words of Birchas Hamazon[7], which discuss how G-d provides for the entire world.

The Chiddushei HaRim[8] added, “And I don’t understand how people do not become believers from the food they are eating itself.” If one focuses on the texture, taste, and aesthetic beauty of his food, he cannot help but be overwhelmed by the graciousness and goodness of G-d.

As the descendants of Avraham it is incumbent upon us to seek out G-d in every facet of nature and life. G-d can be found everywhere, but only to one who searches for Him.

 



[1] Bereishis 21:34

[2] Rashi quotes a dispute between Rav and Shmuel whether the ‘Eshel’ was an orchard, whose fruits Avraham served to the wayfarers, or an inn for lodging, in which he maintained a supply of fruit for wayfayers.

About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.


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