Pesel Mikhah

Mikhah’s Altar, Givat Harel

From Sanhedrin 103b:

תניא רבי נתן אומר מגרב לשילה ג’ מילין והיה עשן המערכה ועשן פסל מיכה מתערבין זה בזה בקשו מלאכי השרת לדוחפו אמר להן הקב”ה הניחו לו שפתו מצויה לעוברי דרכים.

A beraisa: Rabbi Nasan would say:
From Gerev [the town which housed the idolatrous temple of Mikhah] to Shilo [where the Mishkan was located] was 3 mil [appx 3 km / 9,900 ft]. The smoke form the [altar] pyre and the smoke from [that of] Mikhah’s idol would mix together.
The attendant angels wished to destroy [Mikhah’s temple].
The Holy One, blessed be He said to them: Leave him be, because his bread is available for travelers on the roads.

(The Yalqut Shim’oni records Rabbi Nasan’s words three times — Shofetim 247:73, on ch. 17; Shemuel I 247:130, on ch. 21; Zekhariah 247:577, on ch. 10.)

G-d allowed a temple of idolatry flourish, and not only flourish, but even mix with the worship at His Mishkan. Why? Because Hashem cherishes their providing food for wayfarers.

וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲ-דֹנָ֗י אִם־נָ֨א מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ אַל־נָ֥א תַעֲבֹ֖ר מֵעַ֥ל עַבְדֶּֽךָ׃

And he said: My L-rd, if I have now found favor in Your “Eyes”, do not now pass away from Your servant.

– Bereishis 18:3

While I translated that with capitals and a hyphen, as Avraham speaking to G-d, asking Him to give him leave, this is actually a dispute in the gemara:

כל שמות האמורים בתורה באברהם קדש חוץ מזה שהוא חול

חנינא בן אחי רבי יהושע ורבי אלעזר בן עזריה משום רבי אלעזר המודעי אמרו: אף זה קדש. כמאן אזלא? הא דאמר רב יהודה אמר רב: גדולה הכנסת אורחין יותר מהקבלת פני שכינה.

All the names that are said in the Torah in [the story of] Avraham are sacred [references to G-d]. Except for this one [“adonai” in this verse], which is secular [and refers to the human-looking “lords” before him].

Chanina ben Achai, Rabbi Yehoshua, and Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria in the name of Rabbi Elazar haModai said: This one too is sacred [i.e. “A-donai”, as a Divine Name].

Whom does this follow? That which Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav: Greeting guests is greater than welcoming the Shechinah.

According to the second opinion among the tana’im, Avraham asks G-d not to leave, to indulge him as he stopped to wait on the three travelers. Rav explains that Avraham chooses to make G-d “wait” because his welcoming those guests is a higher priority even than greeting G-d Himself.

Which seems to be along the same lines as Hashem cherishing the food for travelers provided by the pagan temple in Gerev as much as the worship of Him in Shilo.

And so, the smoke of Shilo and the smoke of the generous idolaters rose to heaven together.

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