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Posted on November 2, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1267 – Inviting Your Next Door Neighbor for Shabbos: Is that called Hachnosas Orchim? Good Shabbos!

In spite of the fact that Avraham Avinu is known for his attribute of “Chessed” (Kindness), the only actual story in the Torah in which we see Avraham engaged in an act of chessed is his welcoming the three “guests” at the beginning of Parshas Vayera. Chazal elaborate with many stories illustrating the propensity of the first Patriarch to engage in acts of kindness, but in terms of recorded Biblical evidence of this attribute of chessed, the story of Avraham’s hosting the Malachim (Angels) is the only example.

This is rather ironic because in fact, the “chessed” done by Avraham at the beginning of Parshas Vayera was an “unnecessary chessed“. In fact, his “guests” were really “Malachim” who do not get hungry and who do not eat. They really did not need all of his hospitality and graciousness. They came on a mission and could have carried out their mission without the welcome mat! This was almost like a “chessed in error”.

Why, then, out of all the various examples of Avraham Avinu’s chessed is this superfluous and unnecessary act of kindness the one that the Torah cites as the prototype of the chessed of Avraham?

On top of that, the Gemara (Bava Metziah 86b) says that it was a very hot day. The Ribono shel Olam did not want to burden Avraham Avinu with having to take care of guests, so he ensured that the weather that day would inhibit wayfarers from travelling on the road. The Gemara says that Avraham sent his servant Eliezer outdoors to see if he could find anyone to invite into Avraham’s tent. Eliezer went out to seek visitors, but returned and reported that he could not find any visitors. Avraham told Eliezer, “Eliezer, I don’t believe you.”

We will learn in Parshas Chayei Sarah that Avraham Avinu had full trust in his loyal servant. He allowed Eliezer full control over his entire household (Hamoshel b’chol asher lo). Not only that, but when Avraham was looking to find a shidduch for Yitzchak, which was certainly the most important of matters, who does he send? He sends Eliezer. He trusts him to take care of his portfolio. He trusts him to find a shidduch for his beloved son. But to go out and find orchim – suddenly, “I don’t trust you!” What is going on here?

I saw in the name of Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock, Zt”l, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Long Beach Yeshiva, that there are two types of chessed. There is a type of chessed where someone is in need and you take care of that person. You are motivated by the sense of compassion that Hashem put in most humans. When we see a disheveled person on the street in great need of help, most of us feel a natural sense of rachmanus, such that we are inclined to offer help, whenever possible. That is one type of chessed – the chessed you do to fill somebody else’s needs.

There is also another type of chessed. This is a chessed that I do not do because “You need it”, but rather because I need to do it! Hashem instructed us that this is why He created the world. Olam Chessed Yibaneh! (The world was created with kindness.) (Tehillim 89:3). Before this world was created, there was nothing lacking, but the Ribono shel Olam created the universe in order to do chessed. Hashem’s Chessed is not a function of compassion. He does not do it because He can’t stand to see a person suffering or anything like that. It is chessed for the sake of chessed – not because the recipient needs it, but because I need to do it!

In the final bracha of Shmoneh Esrei, when we say “for with the light of Your countenance You gave us, Hashem Elokeinu, the Torah of life and a love of kindness…” we are saying that the Ribono shel Olam gifted Klal Yisrael with something that no other nation has: Ahavas Chessed (love of doing kindness). We don’t do chessed because of the crying shame of the situation or because this unfortunate individual’s plight pulls at our heartstrings. We do chessed because we need to emulate the Ribono shel Olam, who did chessed in creating the world and we need to do it to make ourselves better people. This is a particularly Jewish quality.

Now we can understand the Gemara in Bava Metziah. Avraham tells his servant “Go out and see if there are any guests.” Eliezer comes back and reports, “Nope. No one needs anything. There are no guests out there.” Avraham says “I don’t trust you.” This was not because he suspected that Eliezer was lying to him. He really did trust Eliezer. Avraham is saying, “Eliezer, you do not understand! As wonderful as you are, you are not a Jew and you don’t have the same sensitivity that I have. You don’t understand that I don’t look for guests just because someone needs water or food. I do chessed because I feel a need to do chessed.

That is why the Torah specifically highlights Parshas Vayera, where Avraham feeds Malachim who don’t even need food – in order to illustrate the nature of Avraham’s urge to do chessed: Avraham’s chessed was not merely addressing the needs of the recipients of his chessed. Rather, Avraham’s chessed was addressing his own need to perform acts of chessed. This is what is called Ahavas Chessed – the ultimate paradigm of Avraham’s attribute of kindness.

Exploring the Depth of Heavenly Mercy

The other observation I would like to point out is from the sefer Be’er Mayim Chayim. The Be’er Mayim Chayim is a Chassidishe sefer, which is usually not my forte, but he has a beautiful insight here, which I would like to share.

The Ribono shel Olam informs Avraham that He was about to destroy Sodom. Avraham starts pleading with Hashem: Will you destroy Sodom even if there are 50 righteous people there? “No!” What about 45? “No!” Do I hear 40? Do I hear 30?

The Be’er Mayim Chayim says this is beginning to sound like the shuk (where haggling over purchase prices in the Arab market is an everyday occurrence.) What is all this bargaining about? Avraham Avinu is not in the shuk. He is talking with the Ribono shel Olam! Why does it seem like an auction here – actually a ‘reverse auction’ where the numbers are going down rather than up?

The Be’er Mayim Chayim says that Avraham Avinu looked at this not only as an opportunity to save the people of Sodom. He viewed it as an opportunity to explore the extent of the rachamei shamayim (Divine Mercy). He knew “I need to emulate the Ribono shel Olam. I need to be a rachaman.” Avraham wanted to see how deep and how profound the Ribono shel Olam‘s rachmanus went.

Avraham gets into this “bidding” with the Ribono shel Olam not to “cut a better deal” or whatever. He does this to learn the depth of Heavenly Mercy. For that, Avraham Avinu says, “What about 45? What about 40? What about 30 and 20 and 10?

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Vayeira is provided below:

  • # 029 – Mila and the “Yellow” Baby
  • # 071 – Last Will & Testament of R. Yehuda Hachasid.
  • # 120 – After Milchigs: How Long a Wait?
  • # 167 – The Bris Milah Seudah
  • # 213 – Is lying ever Permitted?
  • # 257 – Makom Kavuah and Other Davening Issues
  • # 303 – Milk and Eggs in Halacha
  • # 347 – Women and the Laws of Tznius
  • # 391 – The Mitzvah of Nichum Aveilim
  • # 435 – Declining a Kibud
  • # 479 – Mitzvah of Inviting Guests
  • # 523 – Walking by a Person Who Is Davening
  • # 567 – Asking and Giving Mechila
  • # 611 – Shalom Aleichem on Friday Night
  • # 655 – The Bris Milah Seudah – Fleishigs or Milchig?
  • # 699 – Zichrona L’vracha, Sh’lita and Neru – For Whom?
  • # 743 – Chazoras Hashatz – More Important Than You Think
  • #787 – Tefilah—Guaranteeing Success
  • # 831 – Hagomel for Elective Surgery
  • # 875 – Visiting the Sick – Are 2 Better Than 1? and Other Issues
  • # 919 – Bas Mitzvah Celebrations – Kosher or Not?
  • # 962 – Hard Cheese: Hot Dog After Pizza — Is There A Problem?
  • #1006 – “I’m Mochel You” — Do You Really Have To Mean It?”
  • #1050 – Saying No to a Rosh Yeshiva? Saying No to your host?
  • #1093 – Tefilah B’Tzibbur: Must You Start Shmoneh Esrai Exactly With the Tzibbur?
  • #1136 –I have a Toothache / Headache / Cold – Do I Still Have To Daven?
  • #1179 – Walking Your Guest to the Door, To the Car – Do You Do That?
  • #1223 – Davening at Netz or Davening with a Minyan: Which is Better?
  • #1267 – Inviting Your Next Door Neighbor for Shabbos: Is that called Hachnosas Orchim?
  • #1311 – I Had Eggplant Parmesan for Lunch Friday: Can I Have Fleishig for the Shabbos Seuda?
  • #1355 – Doing Mitzvos First Time – Bar Mitzva & Tephillin; Women & Candles: Shehechiyanu?
  • #1399 – Speaking Lashon Horah for the Sake of Shalom – Can it be Mutar?
  • #1443 – Oops! I Started Shachris Shmoneh Esrai With Ki Shem Hashem – Now What?
  • #1487 – Are you acting like a person who lived in Sodom?
  • #1531 – Can you fulfill Bikur Cholim by a Telephone?
  • (2022) – Bentching on a Cup of Wine – Do You Share It With Your Wife?

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