We read in Parashat Chayei-Sara of Avraham’s servant’s experiences in Aram Naharayim, where he was sent for the purpose of finding a wife for Avraham’s son, Yitzchak. Outside the city, the servant met Rivka, Yitzchak’s second cousin, whom the servant determined to be the suitable match for Yitzchak. Rivka warmly invited the servant and his men to her home, assuring them that there was room for them and their animals to spend the night. Rivka then ran home to tell her family about the servant’s arrival, whereupon her brother, Lavan, effusively greeted the servant, asking, “Why are you standing outside? I have cleared out the house, and there is room for the camels!” (24:31).
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 60:7), cited by Rashi, presents a surprising explanation of the phrase, “I have cleared out the house,” stating that the family removed the idols from their home in the servant’s honor. The Yefei Toar commentary to the Midrash explains that the Midrash made this remark because Lavan’s statement would otherwise be redundant, given that Rivka had already informed the servant that there was room for him in their home. The Midrash therefore understood that Lavan assumed the servant was standing outside because he wanted to avoid the sight of idols, and so Lavan assured him that all articles of pagan worship had been removed.
Rav Shlomo of Bobov, in Kerem Shelomo, adds that the Midrash here seeks to draw a connection between generosity – “making room” in one’s home and in one’s life for other people – and the elimination of idol worship. Selfishness, the Rebbe of Bobov explained, often reflects a lack of faith. One who believes that he has acquired everything in his possession solely through his efforts, skills and ingenuity, without recognizing God as the source of all his blessings, might be resistant to share his material blessings with other people. In order to “make room” for other people in our lives, we need to eliminate the “idols,” the “worship” of our own handiwork, the tendency to overlook the role of divine providence in our successes. We are to live with a humble sense of appreciation for God’s kindness in enabling us to earn what we have, and this appreciation will then naturally lead us to follow His example and dispense kindness to others.