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Parshat Vayera

By: Mrs Malka Hubscher

Avraham Avinu has historically always been known as an Ish Chessed. For all generations, we as Jews try to emulate his extraordinary middot and imitate his selfless acts of kindness. How did Avraham develop into such a person? What factors inspired such exemplary behavior?

The dominant theme in last week’s parsha is Avraham’s relationship with Hashem. We are introduced to Avraham when Hashem commands him to leave his homeland and head toward an unknown land, Eretz Yisrael. Avraham, displaying great dedication to G-d, picks up his family and obeys Hashem without any questions or complaints; he enters into two covenants with Hashem, Brit ben Ha-betarim and Brit Milah; he is chosen by Hashem, it seems, for his acts of dedication in the area of Ben Adam La-Makom, displaying complete trust and faith in Hashem even at great personal expense. Avraham does display chesed when going to save his nephew Lot, but this is pehaps less than an extraordinary act of kindness – after all, Avraham was saving a close family member, a person whom he had practically adopted as his own son. This type of behavior would be expected of anyone who feels a sense of familial responsibility.

It is only in this week’s Parsha that we witness the great acts of chesed of Avraham: His devotion to hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests); his relentless attempts to save the people of Sedom; his prayers on behalf of Avimelech; and his concern for the welfare of Yishmael and Hagar.

Perhaps the turning point for Avraham comes at the very beginning of our Parsha. Hashem appears to Avraham as he sits in front of his tent in the middle of the day. The Torah states that Hashem “appeared” to Avraham, but there is no mention of any command or message which Hashem imparts to Avraham. Rashi, based on Chazal, teaches us that this revelation of G-d was not to deliver a message, but rather for the purpose of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick). Avraham was still suffering from the pain of the Brit Milah (the very last story in last week’s parsha), so Hashem came to visit him and see how he was feeling. The Netziv points out that Avraham had two tents: One was his living quarters, and the other was a special tent for prayer and mediation. It is in this second tent that Avraham usually received prophecies. This revelation experience was unique in that Hashem appeared to Avraham in his regular tent, his living quarters. Avraham was resting and healing outside his personal tent when Hashem came to that very tent to visit Avraham.

Perhaps this was the turning point; until now, Avraham had associated acts of devotion with a special tent, a beit kneset or beit midrash. When Hashem came to Avraham’s personal tent simply to see how he was feeling, the message became very clear to Avraham: Acts of faith and devotion are not only Ben Adam La-Makom; G-dliness and spirituality can be found in acts of kindness and chesed as well. Avraham internalized this message and emulated the ways of Hashem. From here on, he became an Ish Chesed and model for all future generations. It is Avraham who taught us that one must be wholly devoted to G-d and simultaneously devoted to the wellbeing of other human beings, for closeness to G-d can be found not only in prayer, but in acts of kindness and chesed.




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