Friday, November 18, 2016

The Visitors' Journey? A Midrash for Vayeira - November 18, 2016

Abraham brought the three visitors who had come to his tent all the food that had been prepared.  He  stood over them under the tree, and they ate.           
One of them began to speak. 
“Abraham, I am R’fael, and these are my companions Michael and Gavriel.  We have something very special to share with you.  But before we do, we need to tell you about our journey.” 
Abraham was intrigued.  He said, “Please tell me your story.   I am so glad that you have come our way.” 
       R’fael continued, “We have traveled many days and miles to get here.   But this is not our first visit throughout our travels.  
      We first stopped at a tent that was three times the size of your humble abode.   We were ready to tell the head of the household that he would be blessed with abundant flocks over the next year.  We approached his tent as we did yours.  He came out from his place and said, ‘Stop!  Who are you?’   I said, ‘We are visitors from far off with a message for you!’   The man said, ‘You cannot come near my tent unless you first pray to my gods! Otherwise, you must leave at once!’   
    We were startled at his hostile response. I said, ‘My lord, we have our own God to whom we pray. We cannot do what you ask.’  He lifted his arm, pointed away from his tent, and said, ‘Leave us!   I do not need to hear your message!  Please, go, you are not one of us!’ 
    And so we continued on our journey.  We were commanded to tell a man who had many olive trees that his harvest in the coming season would bring him great wealth.   We approached his home next to his large grove, but he stopped us as we entered his property.  ‘Who comes to my home!  I have not seen you before!’   I introduced myself and my companions, and assured him, ‘We have a special message to give you about your future. It is good news!’   The man replied harshly, shouting, ‘I don’t know you!  You don’t look like me and the people I know!  How would I know you are telling the truth?  I only listen to my family and my friends, not to strangers!  Leave me!’ 
      I persisted this time, ‘But sir, the message! You will want to hear it, and if you don’t, what is laid out for you will not happen.’   The man was insistent: ‘I would not believe you, no matter what you say.  Go!’    And so we left. 
     We went to another man, whose wheat fields had suffered in the previous season.  We were commanded to tell him that his crops would recover in this new year and he would prosper once again.   We approached his farm with confidence that he would listen to our promise.  But he, too, stopped us.  ‘Come no closer!  You are not welcome here!’    I said to him calmly, ‘My lord, we have a message for you. It is about the year to come.’  He stopped me as I spoke, “I don’t want to hear from you!  You look suspicious to me.  I see three men before me with no animals on which they are riding, no servants, no possessions.   You cannot possibly have anything that you could give me that would bring me good news!'
     I thought for a moment, and said,  ‘My lord, perhaps you shouldn’t judge us by what we look like, or what we have, or what we don’t have.  We have something to tell you that will bring you joy.’    The man lifted his hand and pointed away from his home, ‘Leave me!   You cannot possibly have anything to give me or tell me!’   We went on our way, without giving him his message.  And he will not receive those blessings.  The One who commanded us was clear in our instructions: Only those who accept your presence, those who show you hospitality and consideration, are worthy of receiving any blessing I could bestow.’”
“And so, now, we are here, Abraham, and we have good news to bring you.  Do you want to hear it?”
Abraham replied, “I have welcomed you into my home. I have fed you, I have waited on you as if you were members of my household!   I am ready to hear what you have to say!”
R’fael was eager to share the special news.  “Abraham, this is about you and Sarah. And this comes straight from the   God that you call One.  You may not believe it, but do, please do.  By this time next year, you and Sarah will be blessed with a son!” 
Abraham, for his part, was happy, of course, and astonished because of their advanced age.  And Sarah? She just laughed. 

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