Hospitality, Modesty, and Consent (Genesis 18-24)

HaShem has not enjoyed great success in his creation of man.  When HaShem is fed up with how evil man behaves, he simply drowns all but Noach’s family.  It helps initially, but surviving generations of man soon returned to evil.

Then Abram comes along professing monotheism.  There is some hope.  What would happen, HaShem wonders, if he/she sent angels to tell Sarah that she, though now quite old, will bear a son?  Would the angels be taken advantage of and treated cruelly?

As it turned out, the opposite occurs.  Abraham and Sarah go out of their way to welcome the angels with a feast. (Gen. 18:6-8). This hospitality makes quite an impression on the angels.  One tell Sarah he will return in a year and she will have child.  Why is hospitality such an important cultural and spiritual value?  What does it convey?

Fast forward to after Sarah’s death and burial.  Abraham is now quite old and worries about Isaac’s future.  How to find a wife for him?  Abraham chooses the head of his household to find a wife from among Abraham’s relatives.  So discreet is this servant, that we never even learn his name.  Humbly, when he arrives at the well he asks HaShem to indicate which young woman is appropriate for Isaac on the basis of how modest and helpful she is.  (Gen. 24:12-15). Why is modesty such an important cultural and spiritual value?  What does it convey?

The servant meets Rebecca’s parents and tells them how Rebecca has been so modest and helpful.  He tells them that their kinsman Abraham has grown quite rich and that he is looking for a bride for his son, Isaac.  The servant gives Rebecca objects of silver and gold and garments.  He tells the parents he must return to Abraham with the good news.  The mother asks the servant if Rebecca can remain for ten days and then they can go.  The servant, perhaps worried that the opportunity will slip away, again asserts his need to return immediately to his master.  The mother cooly says, “Let us call the girl and ask for her reply.”  (Gen. 24:57) Rebecca is summoned and asked if she will go with the servant.  Her reply:  “I will.”  (Gen. 24:58-59). Why is consent an  important cultural and spiritual value?  What does it convey?  How do all three values collectively establish peace rather than violence?

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