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“He (Avraham) planted an ‘eshel’ in Be’er-sheva, and there he proclaimed the Name of Hashem, G-d of the Universe” (Bereishis 21:33).
Rashi brings the difference of opinion (in Sota 10a) between Rav and Shemuel as to what the eshel actually was. One held that it was an orchard from which to supply fruit for the guests at their meal. The other held that it was an inn for lodging in which were all kinds of fruit.
In any event, the eshel was used to accommodate guests with food.
The passage of the Torah concludes that there Avraham proclaimed the Name of Hashem, G-d of the Universe. The Gemara (ibid.) explains that by means of this eshel Hashem became known as “G-d of the Universe.” For after the guests had eaten and drunk they wished to thank their host. But Avraham said to them, “Do you think you ate of mine? You ate of the G-d of the Universe. Thank and praise and bless Him Who spoke and the Universe came into existence.”
I once mentioned to my mentor, Hagaon Reb Ya’akov Kaminetsky zt”l, that our Patriarch Avraham made the eshel as a means to reach out to people and bring them close to Hashem. Reb Ya’akov disagreed vehemently and corrected me by saying, “If that were true, it would be a big question on his hospitality. The true explanation is that Avraham made the eshel solely for hospitable purposes. However, once he had the people there, he took advantage of the opportunity to teach them the foundations of Belief.”
Reb Ya’akov explained to me that when one helps another his intentions are supposed to be purely and entirely for the benefit of the recipient; with no ulterior motives, be they ever so lofty. One might argue that to bring someone close to His Creator should be considered the benefit of the recipient. That is surely true, and it is a very great mitzvah indeed. But it is not included in the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim (hospitality), through which we were commanded to take care of our guest’s bodily needs by giving him to eat and drink and lodging accommodations.
One must always be careful not to confuse his priorities. Every mitzvah has its time and place and we must perform them properly as the Torah commanded.
Reb Shalom Shvadron zt”l once told an amazing story.
An observant Jew was a neighbor to a non-observant family in Israel. After his neighbor’s wife miscarried several times, R.l., the observant Jew suggested to him that he visit the holy Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak and ask him for a blessing that he merit children who are alive and healthy. Although he himself was non-observant, the neighbor believed in the power of blessings and agreed to go. The religious fellow offered to set up the appointment for him and went to visit the Saint.
While telling the Chazon Ish the story, the religious fellow commented that the Rabbi could do “big business” with the fellow, since he seems ready to abide by anything the Chazon Ish advises him. In other words, it is a golden opportunity to demand that he observe the entire Torah in order to be blessed with children.
After the neighbor’s visit, the observant fellow rushed to ask his friend what the Chazon Ish had advised. To his amazement, he answered that the Rabbi had told him to check his mezuzos. Upon doing so, they found that there was a hole in one of the letters of the word “livanecha” (“to your sons”), which rendered the mezuzah non kosher. They replaced the mezuzah, and the woman gave birth to a healthy child.
Everyone was thrilled, except the observant neighbor. Disappointed, he went back to the Chazon Ish and asked why the Rabbi had passed up this great chance to “do business” with the fellow and make him fully religious. The Saint responded, “I am not a businessman!” In other words, explained Reb Shalom, the Chazon Ish told his supplicant the truth, without any ulterior motives. He understood that the problem was the mezuzah, and so that is what he advised. He did not confuse this mitzvah with another one; be it as important as it surely is. He dealt honestly and purely with the problem at hand; not allowing other considerations to influence him.
The Chazon Ish emulated our Patriarch Avraham. If we do too, we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network