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Avraham sits at the entrance to his tent waiting for guests. When the three angels arrive he runs out to greet them and pleads that they stay. He then tells them (Bereishit 18:4):

יֻקַּח-נָא מְעַט-מַיִם, וְרַחֲצוּ רַגְלֵיכֶם; וְהִשָּׁעֲנוּ, תַּחַת הָעֵץ

Please let a little water be taken, and bathe your feet, and recline under the tree

Rashi explains why they needed to wash their feet:

and bathe your feet: He thought that they were Arabs, who prostrate themselves to the dust of their feet, and he was strict not to allow any idolatry into his house. But Lot, who was not strict, mentioned lodging before washing, as it is said (below 19:2): “and lodge and bathe your feet.” - [from Gen. Rabbah 54:4]

Having said this, the Torah makes no mention of Avraham letting them enter his tent/house; it merely mentions that he offers them to 'recline under the tree'. Is there a reason for this discrepancy?

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The Ramban at the end of pasuk 3 writes that he sat them outside under the tree to catch a breeze.

He recognized they were travelers and wouldn't want to stay so out of respect to them he offered water to wash their weary feet and sat them outside for the breeze and didn't bring them indoors to his tent.

  • How does this answer align with Rashi "strict not to allow any idolatry into his house"? – Al Berko 2 days ago
  • Based on the title and the question, it didn't seem to me that the op wanted an answer in accordance only with Rashi's interpretation. It seemed like the assumption of why they were told to wash their feet in preparation to come in, was met with never having invited them. While it's true he quoted Rashi's explanation why to wash their feet, as mentioned, it didn't seem to be the main crux of his question. As such, I mentioned the Ramban who explains why he never invited them in and the rain he believed Avraham told them to wash their feet. – user6591 2 days ago
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I found an answer in the Kli Yakar:

{ד} יוקח נא מעט מים. פירש"י שלא רצה להכניס ע"ג לביתו. וזה רחוק מן הדעת וכי מפני שוטים שקלקלו לא יכניס שום אבק לביתו, ולמה יכניס אור השמש לביתו והלא יש הרבה שעובדין לשמש, אלא שמ"מ אינה נאסרת, כך קרקע עולם אינה נאסרת. ויותר קרוב לשמוע שלא רצה ליתן מפתו לבלתי הגונים כי שמא ערביים המה, על כן רצה להחזירם בתשובה ע"י שיסירו אלהי הנכר מקרבם, כי הע"ג בביטול כל דהו סגי לכך נאמר מעט מים, ונאמר יוקח, על ידי אחר משמע, כי אף אם יסירו האבק מה בכך אם אמונה נפסדה זו נשארה קבועה בלבם, וטהרת הלב הוא דבר שאין בידו של אברהם, על כן יוקח מעט מים טהורים לטהר הלבבות כי דבר זה מסור להם ולא לו.

ועל צד הרמז נראה לומר, כי על זה אמר והשענו תחת העץ כי הל"ל והשענו בעץ אלא שרצה לומר בואו חסו בצל שדי כמו שפירש"י על פסוק סר צלם (במדבר יד.ט) היינו צלו של הקב"ה. וכן יש מפרשים ע"ד הקבלה שמאמר היש בה עץ אם אין. (שם יג.כ) דומה למה שנאמר (שמות יז.ז) היש ה' בקרבינו אם אין. כך אמר להם השענו לכם תחת העץ העושה צל ורמז לצל האמיתי אשר בצילו יחיו כל הנמצאים והמשכיל יבין: וי"א לפי שהארץ מהוה את הכל כי הכל בא מן העפר ושמה ישוב הכל על כן טעו לומר שיש בה צד אלוהות.

  • I don't see that he addresses (in the displayed excerpt) the question above. He explains why Avraham wanted them to wash their feet, but he doesn't AFAICT answer the discrepancy in the question above. – msh210 Feb 6 '15 at 7:32
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    @Zvi, thanks for that edit! bondonk, we try to be accessible to people whose language is only English; could you edit in a short summary of what this says? (I'm not asking for a full translation, just the summary that you would provide if this were a link instead of a Hebrew passage.) Thanks. – Monica Cellio Feb 10 '15 at 19:24

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