"These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that HaShem G-d made earth and heaven." (Genesis 2:4)
This verse from the early chapters of Bereshith (Genesis) makes rare use of a passive form of the word for creation ("when they were created"), which in Hebrew is spelled with the same Hebrew letters that form the name Avraham - Abraham. From this our sages make the curious statement, "G-d created the heavens and the earth due to the merit of Avraham." These are words of great praise, indeed, for Avraham, but what are our sages really saying?
There is much more behind this bold statement than simple word play. In fact, it can be said that the entire purpose of creation, and of the role of the children of Avraham throughout the generations can be understood through these words. This past week's Torah reading of Vayera, (Genesis 23:1 - 25:18), opens with the arrival of three strangers at the tent of Avraham. These three men who were greeted profusely and welcomed and tended to personally by Avraham, were, in fact, messengers of G-d Himself, angels each with a single Divine purpose to fulfill. Avraham, by performing this mitzva of hachnassat orchim - the welcoming of guests into his house, was doing no less than welcoming the Holy One, Creator of the universe, into this world!
G-d desires a dwelling place in this world. He is not an aloof G-d, content, as it were, to rule His kingdom from above. He desires to be with us, His creation, to "dwell among us." By welcoming G-d into this world, Avraham was completing the process and the purpose of creation. No less than that! Hence the statement, "G-d created the heavens and the earth due to the merit of Avraham." Were it not for Avraham, who let G-d into his home and into his heart, there would have been no purpose in creation.
But Avraham did much more than this. Avraham invited all wayfarers into his house. To this end, he fashioned his tent with four sides and an entrance in every side. In this way he could greet all passers by, regardless of which direction they were coming from. To all comers, as with the three angels, Avraham greeted his guests with warm companionship and a hot meal. After the meal, when the grateful guests approached Avraham to thank him, he would correct them saying, "All that you have received is not from me, but from the Holy one, Creator of the world! It is He that we must thank!" In this manner Avraham introduced mankind to G-d.
We are taught by our sages that a meal in which words of Torah are spoken, is a meal in which G-d Himself participates. It can be said that Avraham was a matchmaker, bringing G-d and all mankind together in one tent, the tent of Avraham.
The entire meaning of the Holy Temple can be summed up in these same words: bringing G-d and all mankind together in one tent, the tent of Avraham. Creating a place in which G-d's presence can dwell, and in which are welcome all who wish to draw near to G-d's presence, and greet Him through worship, is what the Holy Temple is all about. And this is the meaning of the words of Isaiah:
"Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56:7)
Join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven on this week's TEMPLE TALK, as they discuss the Torah reading of Vayera, the remarkable character of Avraham avinu - Abraham our patriarch, and the very purpose of creation.
Click to hear: