Parshas Vayaira

This weeks Parsha is Parshas Vayaira. The Parsha begins with the episode of the three angels who visited Abraham on the third day after his circumcision. Our Sages teach us that Hashem really didnít want Abraham to be busy with guests since this was the third day after his circumcision, and he was very week. Hashem therefore took out the sun and made it extremely hot, so no one would come to Abrahamís house and impose upon him. Abraham, however, was extremely disturbed by the fact that no guests were coming to his house. He sat by the entrance to the tent, hoping that perhaps someone would pass by who he could invite in. When Hashem saw that the pain that Abraham had was so great, even greater than the pain he would have from taking care of guests, He brought him these three angels.

At first glance this is a little puzzling: First of all, Abraham was obviously recuperating from surgery. He certainly was absolved from any obligation to entertain guests at this time. Why would he feel bad not having guests? Secondly, even if he felt bad that he wasnít having over a guest who may have been in need, that just wasnít the case here. There was no one who needed to be invited. Why then, would that bother Abraham? What was missing if no one was in need? Finally, we are taught by our Sages that Abraham throughout his life had an open house, with doors open for guests on all four sides of his house. Why then, does the Torah pick this one incident, from all the stories of kindness that Abraham did in his lifetime, to focus on?

In Hebrew there are two similar concepts that are often confused: Rachamim and Chesed Ė Mercy and Kindness. When a person gives charity to a poor person, is that mercy or kindness? Our commentaries teach us that there is a big difference between the concept of Mercy and the concept of Kindness. Certainly both traits are very important and very special. However, they are very different. Mercy has an element of serving oneís self in it. When I have mercy on someone, I feel bad for them. The decision to help them comes together with a need to address the feelings that I have in regards to the specific situation. That allaying of my personal feelings is satisfying my own need. Kindness, on the other hand, is pure. It comes from a genuine desire to help others. Abraham, even if he didnít see anyone who needed help, felt a desire to help and do kindness with others. That is why the Torah picked this incident to show us the kindness of Abraham.

The beautiful lesson that we are being taught is that it isnít enough to just do kindness. We have to love kindness, seeking to always find ways to help others.