Howie Beigelman has formerly served as the Director of State Affairs for the OU's IPA (Institute for Public Affairs). Each week, he takes a look at the parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.
These articles now appear on Mr. Beigelman's new Politics and Parsha Blog, and have been reprinted with permission. Archives of Mr. Beigelman's articles from the past year are still available at http://advocacy.ou.org/category/blog/
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher
When we meet up again with Abraham this week, he is recuperating from his recent circumcision. Surgery at 99 years old is never easy, and doubtless this had more hazards than average. He has a very special visitor to cheer him up – the Almighty Himself. Jewish tradition learns from this the value of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. We also learn, by the by, from G-d himself that one should try to avoid disturbing the patient (for which the Lord ensured a baking hot sun to keep any potential guests out of Abraham’s tent) but also to do that which will most bring the patient joy or true rest (which G-d does by sending angels in the guise of men for Abraham to host).
From Abraham’s reaction when he sees the angels – disguised as desert nomads – the Jewish tradition also learns another valuable lesson, that hachnasas orchim – welcoming guests – is a greater mitzva than even welcoming the Divine Presence.
But yet another lesson is how Abraham and G-d react to each other when the angels appear. Abraham is entertaining – and being entertained by – the Creator of the Universe. Not everyone can get such an appointment (unless of course you’re the witches Dorothy). Yet, when he sees some no name, average (maybe even below average) wanderers Abraham asks permission from G-d to take his leave and go help those in need.
And G-d acquiesces. We already knew He would; He sent Abraham the travelers, but still the lesson is in the act itself. G-d takes no umbrage (no, not this one either). And Abraham doesn’t need to sit and let the whole world know he’s “in the club.” He’d much rather go out and do the work that needs doing, even if it is less glamorous.
The lesson for elected officials, candidates and their staffs is almost too obvious to mention. I recall being at a major national Jewish event at which a head of government was the keynote speaker. As he was being walked up to the holding room, he was escorted by the host’s Vice President for Public Policy. If anyone had an excuse not to stop and say hello to friends and colleagues en route, it was he. But he (and he knows who he is) did indeed stop to shake hands and say hello, all the while than rushing to stay with the VIP. That, much more than a burger, er, sandwich naming, speaks to true values a person holds.
We too, in our own daily lives often are engaged with someone or something when someone or something else comes along. Too many of us are all too quick to drop the less cool, less fun, less powerful for the in, hip and fun. (This doesn’t mean real emergencies and priorities don’t need to be made.) We could all use a refresher in what’s right – at least as defined by Abraham (a good benchmark if ever there was). And when people do “drop us” to do work that needs doing or be with people who need their time, it’s for us to model G-d’s grace in this episode as well.
Words to consider. Ideas to ponder. Politics & the parsha.