And the Lord Appeared to Him at the Oaks of Mamre

Article No. 6, Tav-Shin-Mem-Hey, 1984-85

“And the Lord appeared to him at the oaks of Mamre.” RASHI interprets, “He gave him an advice about the circumcision. Therefore, He appeared to him partially.” It is written in The Zohar (VaYera, item 17), “‘And the Lord appeared to him at the oaks of Mamre.’ He asks, ‘Why in the oaks of Mamre and not elsewhere?’ And he replies, “It is because Mamre gave him an advice about his circumcision.’ When the Creator said to Abraham to circumcise himself, Abraham consulted with his friends. Aner told him, ‘You are already more than 90 years old, you will afflict yourself.’

“Mamre told him, ‘Remember the day when the Chaldeans threw you in the furnace and the hunger that the world experienced, as it is written, ‘There was famine in the land and Abraham went down to Egypt.’ And those kings that your men chased, and you struck them. The Creator saved you from all of them, and no one could harm you. Arise, and do as your Lord commands.’ The Creator said to Mamre, ‘Mamre, you advised him about the circumcision, therefore I will appear to him only in your place.’”

There is a question, “How can it be said that if the Creator told him to circumcise himself, he consulted the friends whether or not to listen to the Creator? Can such a thing be said?”

We should interpret this in the work. When the Creator told him to circumcise himself, he consulted with his friends, meaning with his body, since the body is the one that has to perform the act. Therefore, he asked his body if it agreed, or did it think that he should not obey the Creator’s commandment. This is so because man’s friends are in the body, meaning they are the desires which are together, connected to the body, and he must ask them because they are the ones who have to keep the commandment that he received from the Creator. Then, when he knew their opinions, he could know what to do.

We have to know that there are three souls in the body, as it is written in The Zohar, VaYera (item 315), “Rabbi Yehuda said, ‘There are three form of guidance in man: the guidance of intellect and wisdom is the power of the holy soul. The guidance of lust, which lusts for every wicked passion. This is the power of lust. And a guidance that guides people and strengthens the body is called the ‘soul of the body.’ These three forms of guidance are called Abraham’s friends. That is, he contains them. Abraham went to ask their opinion; he wanted to know the view of each and every one of his friends.’”

Aner told him: “You are more than 90 years old; you will afflict yourself.” In Gematria, Aner is 320, implying 320 sparks that are present there, including Malchut which is called the “stony heart,” which is the will to receive in order to receive, meaning self-love. This is why he told him: “You are already more than 90 years old; you will afflict yourself.” The stony heart, which is the lusting soul, told him, “You have to always try to receive the Light and pleasure, and not afflict yourself.” Therefore, he told him that he should not obey the Creator’s commandment.

Mamre told him, “Remember the day when the Chaldeans threw you into the furnace.” In other words, he told him, “You see that the Creator is behaving with you above reason, because it stands to reason that one who is cast into the furnace is burned, but your saving is above what seems reasonable. Therefore, you, too, cling on to His qualities, and you, too, go above reason. That is, even though it seems reasonable that Aner is right, you should go above reason.”

Eshkol is the soul of the body and sustains the body. It comes from the word, Eshkol [I will consider], meaning that he needs to consider with whom to unite—with a lusting soul, which is Aner, or with Mamre, who is the soul of intellect and wisdom. This is the power of the holy soul, as was written in the words of The Zohar.

Mamre comes from the words, “because he Himrah [disobeyed] Aner.” He told him to go above reason. This is the meaning of “And the Lord appeared to him at the oaks of Mamre,” for precisely where one goes above reason, where there is no intellect, precisely there the Creator appears, and one is rewarded with the Daat [knowledge] of holiness. This is why it is called Mamre [disobeying], which is regarded as above reason, named “the soul of the intellect and wisdom,” because precisely where one goes above reason the intellect and wisdom appear.

It therefore turns out, that the meaning of what The Zohar says, that Abraham went to consult his friends, refers to Abraham’s own body. The body needs to keep the commandment, therefore he asked the body for its opinion in order to know what he must do. That is, if he should he coerce it or it agreed to what the Creator had told him. When it says that he consulted with his friends, it refers to the three souls that exist in his body, which are his friends, who are always with him.

It is written in Midrash Raba (end of the portion Lech Lecha, and in the beginning of the portion VaYera): “Abraham said, ‘before I was circumcised, passersby would come to me. Now that I am circumcised, they do not come to me.’ The Creator told him, ‘before you were circumcised, uncircumcised people came to you. Now, I and my entourage appear to you.’”

We should understand this, as he did not receive an answer to his question. He asked, “Why are passersby not coming now?” What was the answer? No answer is written as to why they are not coming. Instead, he received a different kind of answer—that previously they were uncircumcised and now, the Creator comes to him. This does not correspond to the question.

We should interpret this in the work. He said that before he was circumcised, the order of his work was that passersby would always come to him, meaning that he had thoughts of people who come and then, people who go. This means that before he was circumcised he had room for work, for he had thoughts of transgression. Afterwards, he had room for those who come, meaning for repentance, and then, he knew that he was truly working.

But now he does not have room for passersby, yet he longed for work. So the Creator told him, “You should not regret this, for in the end, your work is on the work of people who are circumcised. That is, your work was not yet in pure bestowal because you were still not rewarded with removing the foreskin, which is called the will to receive.

Now, however, you do not need to regret the work you had then, as in the end, it was the work of people, which is good work, but still outside, for they were uncircumcised. But now that you are circumcised there is equivalence of form, so I and my entourage may come, which was not so before.

Back to top