It is a commonly accepted view that our society is fractured and polarized, that we have less in common with each other and are becoming more tribal: liberals against conservatives, coastal “elites” against heartland dwellers, whites against minorities, “native-born” Americans against immigrants, and the college educated against those with a high school diploma or less education. But does it have to be this way? This week’s Torah portion teaches us a different way to act toward a stranger, radical hospitality. “God appeared to him [Abraham] by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three figures standing near him. Perceiving this, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said, “My lords! If it please you, do not go on past your servant.” (Genesis 18:1-3). Abraham sees three strangers. He rushes to greet them and then prepares a feast for them. It turns out that these three strangers are God and two ministering angels. Soon they reveal to Abraham and Sarah that their wish to have a child will be fulfilled. But what if Abraham had turned away from these strangers? What if he had feared them rather than welcomed them? How would human history have been different? There is a lesson here for us. By welcoming the stranger, the one who is different, we open a door to new, positive possibilities. The weak live in fear of those who are different. The strong welcome the new and create a richer society, full of new possibilities.
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