The incident in the beginning of this week’s Parsha is complicated. The Torah sets the scene and our Rabbis teach us some additional detail. Avraham is 99 years old and recovering from his Bris Milah. He is sitting at the entrance to his tent looking for visitors to entertain. Avraham sought opportunities to perform the Mitzva of Hachnasas Orchim – inviting guests. He used these opportunities to spread the idea of Monotheism – that there is one G-d whom we cannot see and He created and runs the universe. Avraham was extremely successful in influencing people to give up their pagan ways and follow G-d and he was looking for additional opportunities.
G-d made that day unusually hot so that Avraham would not be bothered with guests and could have time to heal from his Bris. G-d also appeared to Avraham in order to perform the mitzva of Bikur Cholim – visiting the sick. However, G-d felt bad for Avaraham because he was in pain – not so much from the Bris. Rather, Avraham wanted to entertain guests. So, G-d sent three angels in the form of Arabs in order for Avraham to have the chance at Hachnasas Orchim.
So, while G-d was visiting with Avraham, three “men” begin to approach his tent. Avraham says to G-d, “G-d, please excuse me for a few minutes and wait a bit. There are these three men coming whom I must entertain.” Avraham then runs to greet the three.
Isn’t that strange? Let us put it in our frame of mind. Imagine that you are sitting in a meeting with the president or CEO of your company – or better yet – with the President of the United States or Prime Minister of the State of Israel – or even more realistic - you are a student, in the office of your principal. Your phone rings or you see a friend. Would you dare say, “Excuse me please, I have an important phone call.” - “I have to talk to this person.” You would never do that! So, how could Avraham do it to G-d?
However, if we think about it, we do it quite often. We are sitting in shul during the week, talking to G-d, our cell phone rings and we answer the call. On Shabbos we are talking to G-d and we begin talking to our neighbor. How could we do that? Would we dare behave that way in the presence of an important official or teacher of ours?
While Avraham did it, our Rabbis teach us that he knew from G-d that he was supposed to respond that way. But, where does anybody else get the right to behave that way?
True, talking at certain times during davening might not be a “hefsek” – an interruption requiring us to restart. However, that does mean that you have an obligation to talk or that it is even permitted to talk. You are talking to G-d! If it directly related to the davening, that is considered a part of the davening. Otherwise, whether you are saying praises of G-d, thanking G-d or requesting from G-d, you are still talking to G-d. How can you interrupt such a conversation?
Unfortunately, it is not a new phenomenon. It has been around the Jewish world since at least the time of the Rambam. So, although we like to follow the traditions of our forefathers, there are some that we can do without. Talking during davening is one of those.
This is an idea to ponder during the course of our daily services, but not to talk about with your neighbor until afterwards. G-d willing, we will be able to remain focused on our conversation with G-d and He will remain focused on us.