Another mother poem: Fears
Irish and Israeli voices for justice and peace

The entrance to the tent

A tiny word of Torah, which I give over in the name of my friend and colleague Mark Novak, who taught this Elimelech of Lizhensk text in our Torah as a mirror for spiritual development class yesterday.

This week's Torah portion, Vayera, begins:

וירא אליו יי, באלני ממרא; והוא ישב פתח–האהל כחם היום

The Lord appeared to him [Avraham] by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot.

The Hasidic rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk says that the word ohel, "tent," hints at holiness. (Probably because later in Torah, when the Israelites are carrying the portable mishkan / dwelling-place-for-God through the desert, it's referred to sometimes as ha-ohel, "the tent.") Avraham is sitting at the petach, the entrance or opening, of holiness.

That reading transforms this line: it's not just about Avraham sitting in the doorway of his tent on a hot day, but rather, he's sitting in an existential state of openness to holy encounter.

No matter where we are, we can strive to be like Avraham. We can know ourselves to be at the opening of holiness, the doorway to a meeting with God.

Avraham's meeting with God takes the form of a meeting with three strangers; if R' Elimelech's teaching holds true, then he challenges me to see the strangers I meet as faces of God.

Try this on for size: "I am sitting at the entrance of holiness, and the people who appear to me are divine messengers." The people at the coffee shop; the guy behind the counter at the post office; even the person online who's giving me a hard time -- all come from God. How does it feel to aim, even for a moment, to emulate Avraham in this way?

Shabbat shalom!