We find many major events coinciding on the third day of Avraham’s Bris Milah. Firstly, Hashem appears to him for the purpose of Bikkur Cholim (18,1 Rashi). While this is happening, the Torah chose to reveal on this third day the incredible deep, passionate, insatiable desire of Avraham to fulfill the mitzvah of chesed even in the most compromised condition. It is during the most painful and crucial healing day of the milah that Hashem removed the sheath of the sun in order that the severe heat would restrain any visitors to come and bother Avraham with the mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim (18,1 Rashi). Nevertheless, we find Avraham still sitting in the opening of the tent with the simmering heat radiating on him as he was tying and untying his bandages, while on the lookout for guests. When he sees the strangers heruns towards from the opening of his tent. Following the invite into his home, he runs to fetch three bulls so that each guest should eat his own delicacy of tongue with mustard, and he instructs Yishmael to perform the mitzvah of shechitah on them thereby squeezing in to his already humanly impossible repertoire, a lesson in chinuch (18,7 Rashi). He then stands over them to fulfill every whim and wish ensuring that they will be comfortable and satisfied. His identity with chesed was so embodied within him, that the Torah tells us that Avraham had what we would deem sheer chutzpah to excuse himself to Hashem and leave His presence in order to take care of his visitors (18,3 Rashi). Why does the Torah choose to reveal his exemplary acts of chesed specifically in the episode of the third day of Milah.
Thirdly, we must also consider this unique supernatural event of removing the shield of the sun as a separate phenomenon which coincided on this third day of Avraham’s Bris. Even without this obvious altering of nature, Hashem could have accomplished the same by many more natural available avenues.
Fourthly, the Medrash comments on the passukואל הבקר רץ אברהם and Avraham was running after the cattle who were running away, and he ran after them until they stopped in front of a cave. He looked inside the cave and saw a stupendous spiritual light and as he entered he realized that he was standing in the burial grounds of Adam and Chavah. He had just discovered the Me’arahs Hamachpailah. This is hinted in the passuk in the word הבקר which can be read asהקבר the known grave. Avraham thought he was running after the cattle when in essence the cattle were leading him to the burial ground in which he and the Avos and Emahos were to be buried. Why did this so significant event happen on the Third Day?
Fifthly, the malach that was to destroy Sodom came to Avraham with the other two malachim (18,2 Rashi). One can understand why the malach with the tidings of Yitzchak’s birth came to Avraham and Sarah, and also the malach which came to heal Avraham because of the Milah operation especially at 99 years of age. However, what was the purpose of the third malach’s coming whose task was to destroy Sodom?
Six we must take notice that all these events were happening during another auspicious event, the Yom Tov of Pesach (19,3 Rashi, Rosh Hashanah 11 Tosfos).
A seventh event that happened on this Third Day was that Am Yisrael merited to be nourished from the “mannah” in the desert for forty years. This is learned from the passuk לושי ועשי עוגות. It was in Midbar Sin, which is also called אלוש, that they first received the manna. The reason that the second name אלוש was added was to allude to the merit of לושי that because of the kneading of the dough for the visitors Yisrael merited to the heavenly bread (Medrash Rabba 48,12). Why now?
An added point is that the passuk says the word וירא twice (18,2). Rashi says the first sighting of the visitors was a physical sighting. The second was that he understood from what he saw that they were hesitating to come to him so he ran towards them. The Ohr Chaim however explains that he second sighting was that he realized that that in truth they were really angels masquerading as humans. What does the Torah want to teach us from this?
The presentation and understanding of one yesod will answer all of our questions. The passuk says שמש ומגן ה’ אלקים (Tehillim 84,12). The relationship of the two names of Hashem יהו’ andאלהים correspond to שמש ומגן. Just as the sun has a shield protecting the human from its strong rays, so too the light of the Ain Sof symbolized by Name יהו’ has a shield through which the Light is constricted. This shield is called טבע nature and it corresponds to the name of אלהים which is gematriah הטבע. Nature serves as a shield through which Man can have contact with the Light of the Ain Sof without being consumed by it. By refining oneself through Torah and Mitzvos, Man can peel away the layers of nature that lie within himself. Man is an olam katan, a microcosm of the world. At the moment that his neshamah overpowers his body’s lustful desires, he thereby peels away the layers that lie in creation and nature that block the access to the Ain Sof.
The formula that we have just described is in essence the Bris of Milah that formed the covenant between Hashem and Avraham. The Maharal explains that Avraham was the first to call Hashem אדון master of creation. Until then the world did not recognize that Hashem was creator and provider of the earth (Berachos 7b). The reason being that an ערלה, a “foreskin” called nature or מגן, separated the heavens from the earth. Avraham with his teachings and middas hachesed, removed from creation this seemingly impenetrable foreskin, hence allowing one to get a glimpse at theבעל הבירה the owner and caretaker of the universe, symbolized by the light of the shemesh. Therefore his bris with Hashem paralleled the same nature of his accomplishments, to remove the foreskin from the limb of human procreation. For the act of creating a human being, is the closest that Man can imitate his creator in the form of creating something from nothing בריאה יש מאין. For the miraculous feat of creating another human being is accomplished by one single sperm the size of which is totally undetectable to the naked eye thereby defining it as the closest thing to nothing.
The offspring of Avraham who continue to carry the Bris of Hashem are appointed with the same mission – to realize that nature is only a magainwhose purpose is to be penetrated in order that the concealed light behind it can be revealed.
Avraham is the pillar of chesed in the world. The reason is because he discovered the presence of Hashem as the creator through His middah of chesed עולם חסד יבנה. The mere fact that Hashem created the world with a magain which conceals His great light, allows man to have bechirah which is the greatest chesed bestowed to him. It is therefore that Avraham spread the word of Hashem by actualizing this middah of chesed causing others to also come to recognize Hashem as their creator. The mitzvah of milah and the middah of chesed therefore go hand in hand because the source of both came from piercing the veil and magain of creation.
That is why the Torah specifically relates the chesed of Avraham right after the Bris Milah. This demonstration of Avraham’s incredible passion to perform chesed even under the most difficult trying situation, is testimony to his avodah of peeling away the layers of nature in order to reveal the presence of Hashem of עולם חסד יבנה.
The Sefer Yetzirah states that there are three aspects and categories in creation, olam (space), shanah (time) and nefesh (man). This mitzvah of Bris Milah is on the body of the nefesh and it parallels in the category of olam the removal of the sun’s shield in order to contact the inner light. That is why that on this Third Day of Milah and during the time of this incredible display of chesed from Avraham, the shield of the sun was also removed. It is the Bris Milah of Avraham that showed that nature was only a magen and not an independent reality outside of Hashem. As Tosfos explains (Berachos 40b) that even though a beracha with an omission of the mentioning of מלך העולם is not a valid beracha, the first beracha of Shemoneh Esrai is an exception to this rule. The mere mention of אלהי אברהם is tantamount to proclaiming מלך העולם since Avraham publicized this concept. This is how the Chidah explains the interpretation of the beracha given to Avrahamוהיה ברכה. That the mere mention of your nameאלהי אברהם will transform the first beracha of Shemoneh Esrai into a valid beracha. This could be the reason why the first beracha of Shemoneh Esrai ends with מגן אברהם for it is referring to the passuk שמש ומגן and Avraham’s accomplishment in his lifetime was to prove that nature is only a mere מגןshield, that conceals the inner light of Hashem.
Just as we find the existence of an ערלה on the creative organ and on one’s heart which lie in the category of nefesh, so too there exists anערלה in the category of space. The ערלה of Eretz Yisrael was the city of Sodom which embodied a lifestyle of anti chesed. They sinned between their fellow man and Hashem. Just as the ערלה on the nefesh must be removed, likewise the ערלה in the category of space. In a particular way, Eretz Yisrael and the Bais Hamikdash in the category of space parallels the creative organ of Man since all matter was formed through it (אבן שתיה). When Avraham removed the ערלה from his body it triggered the necessity to remove the ערלה also from the creative organ of space. That is why we find that the malach that was sent to destroy Sodom first visited Avraham Avinu on the Third Day. For it was the Bris of Avraham, that was the catalyst in the removal of Sodom.
The Meoras Hamachpailah is the gateway to Gan Eden. Adam and Chava lived in Gan Eden. The Avos tasted Gan Eden and Olam Habah even in this world (Baba Basra 16b). The Meoras Hamachpailah was in the city of Chevron which means connected, alluding to the connection to the upper worlds and inner lights. This is alluded to with the translation of the word מכפלה which means double. It is here where the two worlds touch each other. Avraham on the Third Day penetrated the darkness of the ערלה of space that covered the opening of the cave of Machpailah and was able to see the inner light that dwelled inside, something that Ephron the owner was not privileged to see.
All these events were happening on Pesach. Pesach was the time that the plagues with which Mitzrayim was smitten peeled away the nature instituted by the Ten sayings with which the world was created. Mitzrayim realized that Hashem is the Baal Habas over the world. That is why the Korban Pesach required Bris Milah in order to partake from it.
The source for Yisrael’s eating the spiritual sustenance in the desert was from the Third Day. The food that Sarah Emainu made was like the manna, special enough that even malachim were able to eat from it. In fact it is called לחם אבירים food of the angels. When one removes the ערלהfrom creation he realizes that even the food that sustains him has its roots in heaven and spirituality. When one toils to remove the ערלהthat lies on his heart as the Torah commandsומלתם את ערלת לבבכם, then he merits to elevate himself to be angelic. That is why Avraham after the milah was able with the inner light to recognize by the second look that they were truly angels.
Bikkur Cholim is the mitzvah that one must perform in it a ביקור to uncover the hidden. The Taamei Minhagim explains that the visitor must help the sick individual to make a self spiritual introspection to discover the cause of his illness. No affliction strikes a person without sin. True there are natural causes but one must peel away the outer layers of nature in order to discover the inner reason that has caused his sickness and that is the nature of the lack of the spiritual and inner light. This mitzvah therefore shares the same nature of the Third Day.
The Third Day of Avraham’s Milah was a day when its events all echoed the same message that Nature is only a shield concealing Hashem’s Light. If you pull back the veil you will find Hashem and your loving relationship with Him.