Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Lech Lecha

Genuine Kindness

By Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig

Our patriarch Avraham is renowned as the epitome of the attribute of chesed (kindness). Even today we continue to pray that G-d deal kindly with the Jewish Nation in the merit of his kindness. It is, therefore, most peculiar that the Torah's narrative is replete with activities in which Avraham is involved, all seemingly the antithesis of chesed: he abandons his father in his old age; he fights a war against four powerful kings; he evicts his son Yishmael from his house; and ultimately attempts to slaughter his other son, Yitzchak (Isaac).

Our Sages explain that all of these activities were instances in which G-d was testing Avraham's conviction in response to challenge, and he passed them all. But why did G-d orchestrate situations in which Avraham was forced to act in a cruel way? And if with these responses Avraham passed these particular tests, why do we refer to him as the pillar of kindness, rather than some other form of Divine servant?

The Talmud (Brachos 33b) relates that everything is controlled by G-d with the exception of the degree of our fear of Him. Orchos Tzadikim, a classic text of Jewish ethics and philosophy, compares the fear of G-d to a thread run through several pearls and gems to form a necklace, tied together with a knot at the bottom. Were the knot to break, the gems would certainly fall and scatter. The fear of G-d, he explains, is the knot that binds together all of our positive attributes.

We do not do chesed because of the sense of fulfillment we acquire from helping our fellow man. We are not merely compelled to do for others in need because they are in need. Rather, in the Jew's lifelong quest for G-d consciousness and G-dlike perfection, he appreciates that just as G-d is merciful and compassionate so too we are merciful and compassionate (Talmud Shabbos 133b). G-d tested Avraham, the pillar of kindness, by putting him in circumstances that mandated unkind deeds. Avraham certainly performed many kind acts and greeted many strangers with hospitality, but these undertakings could have merely been an outgrowth of his giving nature. It was, therefore, necessary to test Avraham by putting him in a condition where he was obliged to go against his nature to determine whether his acts of kindness originated from a natural proclivity to give, or if they were genuinely a form of Divine service. When Avraham demonstrated that, if necessary, he would act cruelly in order to serve G-d, it served as a clear testimony that his acts of kindness were a genuine form of Divine service and a performance of chesed on the highest level.

Have a Good Shabbos!


Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig and Torah.org.

Kol HaKollel is a publication of The Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue Milwaukee, Wisconsin 414-447-7999


 






ARTICLES ON LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

Hey, Hey, Hey!
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5767

Redefining Pleasure
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5775

A "Sneak Preview" of History
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Attitude Conditioning
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

The Wandering Jew
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

Defying Natural Order
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5774

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Lech Lecha
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

Worthy of the Brocha!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

An Uplifting Experience
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5757

> Keeping Focus
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5767

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Lech Lecha
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5767

Paradoxical Lot
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

ArtScroll

Mission Impassable
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

Emunah: Keeping the Faith
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Avram Lifted Up His Hand...So That You Not Say
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

Enduring Lesson
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information