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    Groves of Mamre – Vayyera

    Depiction of the Oak of Mamre, by HB Tristram, 1865

    Depiction of the Oak of Mamre, by HB Tristram, 1865

    Vayyera, the Torah reading for this Shabbat, begins with the verse, “And God appeared to him (Abraham) in the groves of Mamre” (Gen. 18:1).

    Mamre was an Amorite chieftain, an associate of Abraham and presumably the owner of the group of oaks near Hebron mentioned in this verse.

    Maybe the local inhabitants were tree worshippers (history certainly does record that it was a place of idolatrous worship) and were eventually persuaded by Abraham, who lived nearby, to accept the one true God.

    On this basis it possible that the name Mamre is connected with a verb that has the meaning of exchanging, in this case exchanging idolatry for Judaism.

    The groves of Mamre were a well known meeting place, where Abraham received various items of news that affected the future of the family and the destiny of the Israelite people – for example, the tidings brought to him by three angel messengers to announce that Sarah was pregnant.

    According to the sages, Mamre, though himself uncircumcised, was Abraham’s confidant, and advised him to follow the command of God to circumcise the males of the family and household.

    Mamre’s view was that Abraham himself should lead the way. The household was more likely to be persuaded if the patriarch himself and his son Ishmael gave an example and underwent circumcision first.

    The etymological source of name Mamre may be the verb ra’ah, to see, an allusion to the verse (Gen. 13:15), “All the land which you see, to you shall I give it”.

    Other Amorite rulers who were members of Abraham’s league of confederates were Aner and Eshkol who, with Mamre, helped him overcome the local kings who had captured Lot (Gen. 14).

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