Friday, October 22, 2010

VaYeira 5634 Second Ma'amar

"וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה' בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא .../God appeared to him in the plains of Mamre …" (Breishis 18:1)  Why does the Torah make a point of telling us where God appeared to Avraham Avinu?  Chazal[1] teach us that Mamre encouraged Avraham to carry out God's command whereas Aner an Eshkol discouraged him.  As a reward, God revealed Himself on Mamre's land.
This answer needs an explanation.  Why did Mamre care whether Avraham Avinu circumcised himself or not and why do Chazal praise Mamre for advising Avraham to circumcise himself?
The Sfas Emes explains that Aner, Eshkol and Mamre understood that the purpose of the circumcision was to bind Avraham Avinu and his progeny to God in a covenant that would distance him from them.  Avraham Avinu and his descendents were being chosen to have a special relationship with God, a relationship that perforce excluded others.  
Aner and Eshkol did not agree with this and so discouraged Avraham Avinu.  Mamre, though, understood that this is the way things were supposed to be and that it would be of no use to delude himself into thinking otherwise.  He therefore encouraged Avraham Avinu to go through with the circumcision and covenant even though he knew that their relationship would change because of it.
Paradoxically, specifically because Mamre subordinated himself to this truth, he merited coming closer to God and Avraham Avinu.  God revealed Himself on Mamre's land.
We learn from Mamre that in order to come close to God it is imperative that we understand our place and not delude ourselves into thinking that we are what we are not.  This is a simple task.  It requires a lot of work to reduce arrogance to the point at which we can subordinate ourselves and accept our place within the nation even when we may perceive that place as commanding less respect than others within the nation of Israel. 
It is specifically when we accept our place, as Mamre did his, putting God's honor before our own, that we merit coming close to God.  Chazal[2] alluded to this when they said that one who increases God's honor at the expense of his own will merit as increase in his own honor as well.

[1] Breishis R. 42:8
[2] Bamidbar R. 4:20

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