The Angels of God and Abraham’s Hebrew

Today’s Parasha {פרשה} (weekly Torah portion) is’Va-Yera’ {וירא} (Hebrew for ‘and He appeared’). This is the fourth weekly Torah portion from the Book of Genesis and can be found in Genesis 18:1–22:24.

The name of the weekly Torah portion comes from the first word (in the original Hebrew) of the opening verse:

“And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him.” (Genesis 18:1-2)

This is the opening verse for the great story of the announcement of Isaac’s birth. In the Jewish tradition, the three men who came to visit Abraham were angels who were sent to him by God.

The original Hebrew word for ‘angel’ is ‘Mal’ach’ {מלאך} and it’s derived from the same Hebrew root as the word ‘Mela’cha’ {מלאכה} which means ‘work’ or ‘assignment.’ This is why, according to Judaism the ‘angel’ is sent by God to carry out a specfic mission.

Following this concept, the Jewish tradition explains that each angel was sent to do ONLY ONE thing – meaning, in our case, those three angels were sent to carry out THREE different missions! The ‘Midrash’ {מדרש} (an old Jewish lesson) elaborates: the FIRST mission was to cure and to bless Abraham, as was written:

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:19)

The SECOND mission was to deliver the news about the future son – Issac – to Sarah – and that is the reason they specifically asked for Sarah to tell her the news:

“They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.” (Genesis 18:9-11)

And the THIRD mission was to go to Sodom and Gomorrah, and that explains why the three men continued their journey over there:

“So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.” (Genesis 18:22)

According to one fascinating interpretation, Abraham knew the three men were angels of God (disguised as ‘regular’ people) because of what he told them in the following verse:

“While I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” (Genesis 18:5)

In the original Hebrew the phrase ‘that you may refresh yourselves’ appears as ‘Ve-Sa’adu Libchem.’ {וסעדו לבכם} The last word ‘Libchem’ literally means ‘your heart.’ However, there are TWO ways to spell this word in Biblical Hebrew.

One is what we just witnessed (‘Lev’) {לב} and the other is ‘Levav'{לבב} using a DOUBLE form of the Hebrew letter ‘Bet’ – which is explained as ‘the extended version’ of the heart and thus refers to BOTH the good side and the bad side of the inner heart.

In our case, Abraham used the first version, meaning the one that has no references to refer to the good and bad sides of the heart, because he knew that angels do not have that…