Seeing and Appearing? (Genesis 18:1)

Question

I’ve a short question about Bereshit 18:1 regards the opening words: וירא אליו יהוה.

Normally the word וירא (vayera) is translated as ‘He (G-d) appeared’, but the word is similar to וירא (vayara) which could be translated as ‘He (G-d) saw’. So could one translate the introduction as: And the Lord looked upon him by the terebinths (trees) of Mamre/in the plains (valley or vale) of Mamre, and he (Avraham) sat in/at the entrance of the tent in the heat of the day.

Of course, it’s the Lord that speaks to Avraham later on asking him why Sarah laughed. And thus one could say וירא means ‘He appeared’ in this case such as is the case in other verses like Bereshit 12:7 and 17:1.

Yet there are three men/heavenly abodes/angels who appear to Avraham. So one could also imagine the Lord didn’t appeared but looked upon Avraham after his circumcision and seeing him He sends these three visitors; it even says in verse 18:2 these visitors ‘stood above him’ as if they decended from heaven.

Any commentaries which relate to this idea of G-d watching over Avraham instead of appearing to Him?

, 7 months

Answers

  1. Interesting idea, but I am not aware of any sources that this verse is to be interpreted in the way you suggest.

    Elsewhere in the Torah, with a slightly different form of this word, our Sages teaches us to learn the word in both sense: appearing and seeing – through a methodology or a tradition. But not here, that I am aware of.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team