וירא אליו ד’ באלני ממרא
And Hashem appeared to him in the plains of Mamreh
The Daas Zikanim tells us that Hashem had commanded Avraham to circumcise everyone in his household, including all of the people he had converted and brought with him to Eretz Canaan. When Avraham heard this command, he was not sure how he would convince all of these people to have a circumcision if they did not want to do it. He first spoke to Aner and Eshkol, who had no suggestion. When he asked Mamreh, his advice was that Avraham should first do the circumcision on himself and on his son Yishmael. Once they set the example, the other people would do it as well. This is what the Pasuk (Breishis 17:26-27) means when it says that in the middle of the day Avraham and Yishmael were circumcised and afterward it states that all the people of his household were circumcised. It was because of this advice that Hashem revealed himself to Avraham in Mamreh’s portion.
We know that Avraham had a tremendous power of speech to convince all of these people to convert. We would think that the best advice would have been for Avrahom to be the last one to be circumcised in order for him to have his full strength to be able to convince people to do the command of Hashem. What we see here is that the greatest way to influence someone, regardless of how powerful an orator a person is, is to lead by example. The example that Avraham set by doing the command of Hashem and being circumcised, and then circumcising his son, was a greater influence than anything he possibly could have said.
The Chidushei Halev explains that we see a similar idea brought in the Gemara in Yoma (35b). The Gemara explains that when a person comes to his final judgement, the Heavenly Court will ask him why he did not involve himself in the study of Torah. If he responds that it was because he was too poor and, therefore, was constantly worrying about where he would get food, the Court will say to him “was there anyone who was as poor as Hillel, and that did not prevent him from learning Torah?” The Chidushei Halev asks why the Court has to bring Hillel as an example? If the reason this person did not learn is not legitimate, the Court should just tell him that this is not an acceptable excuse. We learn from this that the way one realizes that he did not act properly is if he sees someone in the same situation who acts properly, and that he should have acted differently. Therefore, he is shown Hillel as the example.
We always need to be cognizant of our actions and the message others are taking from them. We provide the role models for future generations. As we see from this Parsha, regardless of what we say, the lasting impression is what we do.