Vayaira 2006

This week’s Parsha, Parshas Vayaira, begins with a description of the chesed, (kindness) of our Patriarch Abraham. On the third day after his circumcision, when he is very weak, Hashem decides that He would like Abraham to rest. He makes it a very hot day so no people are traveling, and no one will bother Abraham. Abraham, however, is very upset by his inability to do kindness to others. So much so, that Hashem decides that He must send three angels to appear to Abraham as guests. Tradition tells us that Abraham had a practice of opening his home to others for decades. We are taught that he even had doors on all four sides of his house so that guests could come from any side at any time. If Abraham practiced so much kindness for so many years, why did the Torah record this specific incident of kindness more than all the other ones that certainly occurred over the years? What is unique about this story? The commentaries explain that there is a basic difference between mercy (rachamim) and kindness (chesed). Mercy is a feeling aroused to fill a need that exists. It is very special. However, if there is no need, no cause to arouse the mercy, than there is no reason for the benefactor to be doing anything. Abraham, all through his great career of kindness, was addressing needs that existed. This was very special. However on that day of the story in this week’s reading, he attained an entirely new level of kindness. Think about it: It’s hot, very hot. No one is traveling. No one needs a drink, a meal, or a place to rest. So why did Abraham feel bad? What did it bother him not to do kindness if there was no need to fill? On this day, Abraham taught us the lesson of Ahavas Chesed- a love for kindness. Abraham felt an inherent need to practice kindness even if no one asked for it. He felt a need to be a giver, to be a benefactor, to emulate our Creator who gives us everything we have, all the time. This lesson- that we must always try to be in a giving mode, to find people and causes to help, even if a need has not approached us- this is the lesson that Abraham taught us. This is the legacy of kindness that the Torah records in this particular incident. Wishing you and your family a great Shabbos!!! Rabbi Moshe Travitsky