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"And the Lord went His way, when He had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place" Genesis 18:33

    When God said that he was going to destroy the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleaded with him to spare them. But his entreaties were unsuccessful and the Torah states that when God proceeded with his plans "Abraham returned to his place".

    An instinctive interpretation of this verse is that Abraham went back to wherever his tent was pitched, presumably somewhat dejected and disappointed with the results of his dialogue with God. But that might not be an accurate understanding of what the verse means, because it is unnecessary for the Torah to burden us with mere narrative.

    An alternative interpretation is provided by the Spanish 13th-century commentator Rabbenu Behaye, who suggested that the intent of the Torah was to tell us that Abraham returned to his old ways of providing hospitality to wayfarers.

    This interpretation is not only teaching us what the verse might mean. It also provides us with an important lesson about the nature of religious commitment. Considering his lack of success in changing the divine will, Abraham might well have felt unable to continue with his righteous lifestyle. Having had his pleas rejected, he might have decided that he no longer wished to serve God in the way that he had previously done so. Yet he realised that religious integrity demanded of him that he continued to do what he had always believed to be the right thing, despite his personal sense of rejection.

    Often a person might feel that their prayers have not been heeded or that God has not favoured them as they would wish. It is all too easy in such cases to disengage from God and from religion. But Abraham, who experienced these feelings himself, has provided us with a model of continued dedication even in these circumstances.

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