Sunday, October 21, 2007

Where are you coming from?

My dear friend, האדמו"ר רבי חיים מאיר מארגארעטן, had a penetrating insight into Avraham's approach to outreach. Everyone knows that Avraham's tent had four doors, one on each side. This strange design probably made things real cold at night, but it facilitated the welcoming of guests.

Few have given this Midrash much thought. Is it too much to ask a guest to walk around and use the front door? What is the sense of a door on every side of the house? The answer, according to Chaim Mier, is profound.

A pagan stranger encountering Avraham for the first time knew immediately that he had to change. To stand in the shining presence of this angel among men was to feel that your past was one big mistake that needed to be erased. The burning desire to start life anew was overwhelming, but Avraham said no.

Yes, change is good, said Avraham, but don't throw out your past. It is not a mistake; it was given to you by God and it is an integral part of your personal journey. That is the idea of a door on all sides; every point of departure is designed by God to lead to Avraham's tent. You don't need to becoming from a different place - you come from exactly where you are supposed to come from. The past must not (and cannot) be surgically excised.

I would posit that Avraham's picked up this approach from personal experience:
Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land which I will show you.
Bereishit 12:1
The point of departure should never be ignored, forgotten or denied.

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