The Giants Among Us

On the third day following his bris milah, despite great pain and the supernormal heat, Avraham Avinu was anxious to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim. Then he saw before him what appeared to be three men. Actually, they were three of the best-known angels: Michoel stood in the middle, with Gavriel to his right and Refael to his left.

Each angel had a specific mission.

Michoel came to reveal the glad tidings of the forthcoming birth of Yitzchak. Refael came to heal Avraham, and then to save Lot from the destruction of Sedom. Gavriel’s mission was to destroy the evil city of Sedom and its sister cities in sin. While the missions entrusted to Michoel and Refael brought them to Avraham Avinu, why was Gavriel with them? It would appear that he could have simply joined Refael later on in Sedom.

One explanation is that Gavriel, who was on a mission of destruction, was not allowed to descend to this world without an angel of mercy to accompany him. Since Refael was headed first to Avraham Avinu in order to heal him, Gavriel went along.

The Belzer Rav, zy”a, explained it this way:

“Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim, not through an angel, not through a saraf, not through a messenger, but Hakadosh Baruch Hu in His Glory, Himself …” (Haggadah Shel Pesach). The people of Egypt had descended to such levels of impurity that Hashem did not wish to send malachim to that land, for even something as spiritual as an angel would have been contaminated in that poisoned atmosphere.

So too Sedom, another bastion of evil and impurity, was a dangerous place for an angel to visit, even if he was on a mission of destruction. Therefore, the Ribbono shel Olam sent Gavriel to “eat” a meal at the house of Avraham Avinu; in the merit of basking in the presence of this great tzaddik, the malachim would be sufficiently fortified to go to Sedom.

With this thought the Belzer Rav explains the maamar Chazal that when Moshe Rabbeinu went up to Shamayim to receive the Torah, the malachim sought to harm him. Hakadosh Baruch Hu then made Moshe look like Avraham Avinu, and He told the malachim, “Aren’t you embarrassed? Is he not the one you descended to visit, who fed you as guests in his house?”

The malachim had reason to be embarrassed, since it was the spiritual nourishment that they had received from Avraham Avinu that had made it possible for them to accomplish their mission in this world.

Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu, “The Torah is being given to you only in the zechus of Avraham Avinu.”

Elsewhere in the parashah, we see more of the far-reaching merit of Avraham Avinu.

“When Hashem destroyed the cities of the plain, Hashem remembered Avraham, so he sent Lot from the midst of the upheaval when he overturned the cities in which Lot had lived.”

Rashi explained that Hashem “remembered” that Lot, although of course aware that Sarah was Avraham’s wife, did not dispute Avraham when he said of Sarah, “She is my sister,” and did not reveal anything.

Lot showed concern for Avraham; therefore, Hakadosh Baruch Hu showed concern for Lot and arranged for him to be rescued.

The Tzeidah Laderech points out that the Torah does not state “Hashem remembered Lot,” but rather “Hashem remembered Avraham.” Lot’s good deed in itself did not suffice for him to merit being saved; rather, it was the fact that he had helped Avraham Avinu, who was so beloved in the eyes of Hashem, that caused him to be saved.

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While the loftiness of Avraham Avinu is beyond our comprehension, in every generation, Klal Yisrael is blessed with spiritual giants. Some are well known and serve as our pre-eminent Torah leaders, einei ha’eidah. Others remain relatively incognito, with only a hint of their greatness revealed to those in their immediate proximity. Fortunate are those who cleave to these individuals and bask in their presence.

It is incumbent upon us to look around us and, when necessary, come to the aid of the giants among us. The fact that they spend their days and nights learning Torah and serving Hashem makes these individuals far more likely to suffer financial deprivation.

Lot merely remained silent, but the fact that this silence helped Avraham Avinu sufficed to save his life. One can only imagine the merit of those who come to the aid of the righteous of our generation.