"He lifted his eyes and saw that behold, three men were standing before him. He took note, ran towards them from the entrance of the tent, and prostrated himself on the ground." (Gen. 18:2)

"And saw that behold, three men…": Even though he was in the middle of talking to G‑d, he noticed that guests had arrived. Abraham demonstrated how important it is for hosts to be attentive to their guests' feelings, as well as their physical needs. This consideration for guests' feelings is an integral part of hospitality. If a host just fulfills his guests' material needs, neglecting to take a personal interest in them, they will be embarrassed and feel that they have imposed on him. Their stay will be distressful and uncomfortable, no matter how impressive the physical accommodations.

Hospitality is only a Rabbinic commandment, but, the Sages point out, the fact that Abraham interrupted his audience with G‑d to attend to his guests shows that "hospitality to guests is greater than receiving the Divine Presence".

[Note:Shabbat 127a; Shavuot 35b. In these sources, this is derived from verse 3, the word for "My masters!" being understood as "My Master!" and referring to G‑d: Abraham asked G‑d to wait for him while he attended to his guests. Maimonides, however, derives this from verse 2 (Mishnah Torah, Avel 14:2), stressing Abraham's sensitivity to his guests from the moment he saw them.]

The men rose from there and looked out over Sodom, and Abraham walked with them to escort them. (Gen. 18:16)

Rashi: He thought that they were mortal guests.

We see here again how Abraham was concerned for his guests' feelings as well as their material needs. Although escorting a guest does benefit him materially, it is primarily a symbolic gesture of reluctance to part. It thus serves to assuage the guest's apprehension over having imposed on his host.

Thus, the Sages say that one who fails to escort a guest is considered to have killed him. Literally, the Sages are referring to the fact that escorting the guest protects him from danger. However, their statement can also be understood to mean that the host's failure to escort his guest shames him: embarrassing a person makes him blush, and this temporary interference of the circulation (the redness of the skin is caused by the augmented flow of blood through it) is considered a minor form of shedding blood.

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 25, pp. 70-76

Copyright 2001 Chabad of California http://www.LAchumash.org