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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Vayera

Genesis 18:4

"Let some water be brought, please, and wash you feet and recline beneath the tree."

On this verse Rashi has a strange comment. (in Hebrew) "tachas ha'etz": RASHI: "tachas ha'ilan."

Now the word "etz" means either "wood" or "tree". Rashi is telling us that it means "tree" here and not "under a wooden roof." That is what the commentaries say. But if we are to understand Rashi in depth we must ask: Why would I have thought this word "etz" means wood and not tree? The Torah has used the word etz many times already in Genesis and it always meant tree ("etz hadas" the tree of knowledge.") Why would I think otherwise here?

I believe the explanation is that this whole story is about Abraham's consideration and chesed for guests. If he is serving them such a splendid meal he would do it in his home. Granted, his home was a tent, but he may have had a "lean-to" of wood near his house for guests. But real consideration for guests includes more than food. Abraham may have felt that since they were traveling, they may not have wanted to spend a lot of. Going into the house or under the wooden roof would have required more time. Abraham decided to serve them outside "under the tree" as the Torah repeats again in verse 8. In this way he brought the food to them and took up as little of their time as possible. That may be why the Torah even mentions this trivial piece of information. And this may be why Rashi saw as important to spell out that this was under the tree and not near the tent under a wooden roof.

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