וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה' בְּאֵלֹנֵי...וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו וַיַּרְא וְהִנֵּה שְׁלשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים נִצָּבִים עָלָיו וַיַּרְא וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם...
Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamrei... he [Avraham] raised his eyes and saw: And behold! Three men were standing before him. And he saw, and he ran to greet them... (18:1-2)
Avraham was in the middle of the greatest prophecy he had ever received, and he ran off in the middle of it to perform the mitzvah of chesed when he saw three guests approaching. How could he leave Hashem’s presence, even if it was to do a mitzvah?
From here the Gemora learns that it is greater to fulfil the mitzvah of welcoming guests into one’s home than welcoming the Shechina, Hashem’s presence manifest in the world. On this Gemora, Rav Noach Weinberg used to aptly say that from we see that it is better to be like Hashem then it is to be with Hashem.
explains that it was only after Avraham was given a bris milah
that he was able to prevent himself from falling on his face to in fear before Hashem’s Presence (17:3)
There is a concept that if one is currently involved in a mitzvah
that cannot be done at the same time as a second mitzvah
that arises at a later time, he is not obligated to fulfil the second mitzvah
whilst he is still busy with the first one. See for instance Succa 25a.
The Torah itself teaches us this message elsewhere. For example, when the Jewish People are commanded to “go in His ways” it implies that we are supposed to strive to follow Hashem’s ways rather than merely being with Hashem (Devarim 28:9)
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