This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama.
In this week's Parshas Vayeira (and He appeared), Avraham Avinu (our forefather) is sick, but still sitting out in the heat of the day (Bereishis 18:1) scanning the horizon for guests.
When a trio of men (angels) appear in the distance, he rushes forth and announces, "I will bring a morsel of bread for you. Nourish yourselves on it. Thus, you may pass on your way." (18:5) He scampers off to fetch three whole calves so that each man can feast on the choicest bit, its tongue. There's a lesson in this: "Say a little and do a lot," Ethics of Our Fathers (1:15).
It's an inspiring story; applicable on several levels. Yet there's more here than meets the eye. For instance, in the previous pasuk, the first words Avraham spoke to the angels were in a detached manner, "Let water be brought," (18:4). His choice of wording had the taste of an emperor who with sweeping arm might say, "Something will appear, as if by magic." The more appropriate for him to state would have been, "My son will bring you some water etc," which was what he had intended all along anyway.
Our Rabbis say, "Ma'ase avos siman l'banim (the deeds of our forefathers are a sign for how our children will behave)." Rashi comments (18:4), "Since Avraham spoke in a removed manner, saying, "water would be brought" instead of letting the guests know that his son would bring the water, Moshe, later on, failed to bring forth water from the rock using his words." Instead, "He raised his hand to hit the rock," (Bamidbar 20:11). It is due to this mishap that he was not allowed to enter the Holy Land. "Ma'ase avos siman libanim." Avraham's choice of words had catastrophic consequences for Moshe.
The truth is, most people assume that child bearing starts with kids ages two and up. In Lawrence Kelemen's book on raising children, "To Kindle a Soul," it says that the best way to educate one's children is to begin with building his own character. As in, right now. One has no idea how his actions will effect the lives of his descendants.
How does one begin? Picture this. You've just returned home from the dentist. All four of your wisdom teeth have been yanked out of your mouth and your cheeks are so swollen that when you ask someone to pass you the gauze, it comes out sounding like, "quoodjaasmehsoguz?"
It's not your best face day.
There's a knock on the door. It's your mother-in-law: "Hi, I came to surprise you," she says and ambles into your living room. She plunks her tape recorder down, begins to play a Rabbi Kelemen lecture on Shalom Bayis (peace in the home), and parks herself into your green armchair. The impression you get is that she isn't leaving anytime soon. How will you act in this situation?
Note to reader: your children are watching you.