"He planted an Eshel in Beer-sheva, and there he proclaimed the Name of Hashem, G-d of the Universe." (Genesis 21:33)
What is an Eshel? The Talmud (Sotah 10a) records two opinions: (i) one view is that it was an orchard of trees and Avraham gave of its fruits to travelers, and (ii) one view is that it was an inn for lodging, where Avraham hosted guests.
There’s a supremely interesting comment of the Maharal of Prague which sheds light on the nature of this disagreement. He understands the debate as to the meaning of Eshel as revolving around the question of what was the primary means of emphasis by which Avraham drew others closer to truth and spread knowledge of Hashem.
As such, the opinion that says the term Eshel describes an orchard contends that Avraham appealed to people through the Tree of Life – the Torah (see Berachos 32b) – via appealing to the intellect, with wisdom, and different types of logical proofs and rational argument.
And the opinion that says the Eshel was an inn – this view holds that the primary tools in Avraham’s outreach arsenal were warmth, friendship, camaraderie and chesed (kindness).
What emerges from this Maharal is that there are different methods by which a person may be brought closer to Torah and Judaism, as anyone with experience in outreach can attest.
Some people are more attracted to Torah living through intellectual stimulation and lectures, while others are able to connect to Torah primarily through developing relationships with Torah observant Jews and the Shabbos table.
If someone desires to spread awareness of Torah in this world, one should optimally have the personal range to be able to offer both approaches to those that he or she meets, depending on the needs, proclivity, and preference of a given individual.Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Bregman is an internationally recognized Torah scholar, #1 best-selling author, matchmaker, entrepreneur, attorney, and media personality. His energetic and empowering messages currently reach over 350,000 people per week via social media, NYC radio, and newspaper columns worldwide. His website is www.RabbiBregman.com and his email is RabbiBregmanOfficial@gmail.com.