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Parshat Vayera

By: SFW Students & Alumna
Sarah Dray, SFW 5767-5768

In this week’s parsha, we continue to explore the depths of Avraham Avinu's personality, his tremendous love for Hashem, and the incredible Chessed he displays. Over and over, Avraham gives of his own to others. The parsha opens portraying Avraham sitting at the opening of his tent, waiting for guests to arrive. Not only was it an incredibly hot day, but Avraham was also on the third, and most painful, day of recovery from his brit milah. Rashi expains that Hashem recognized Avraham’s distress over the fact that he had no guests, and therefore sent the three angels to Avraham's tent. The Torah use the phrase "and he hurried" three times in two psukim, emphasizing Avraham's eagerness to bestow kindness on his guests. Not only was Avraham ready to feed his guests, but Rashi clarifies that Avraham had three full cows to serve to his guests, so that each one could get the most expensive part to eat. Upon exploring Avraham’s chessed in depth, it is clear that Avraham’s love for Hashem and chessed are more intrinsically bound then it may seem.

Rav Eliyahu Dessler, in comparing Avraham to Noach, points out an important difference between the two. The Torah write that "Noach walked with G-d", clearly an incredibly high level. Walking with G-d, Rav Dessler explains, means that Noach was able to lead his life according to the ways of G-d as long as he had an external stimulus pushing him in the right direction. So, for example, because the animals in the ark required so much attention, Noach actualized his potential to feed them and take care of them. On the other hand, the Torah writes that "Avraham walked before G-d", meaning that Avraham's actions needed no encouragement. Rather, Avraham Avinu was prepared to do kindness regardless of the circumstances.

Rav Dessler explains that there is a monumental difference between being a person who exemplifies chessed and being a person who exemplifies rachamim, mercy. A merciful person will see somebody else's suffering, and then do his best to fulfill their needs and help them. However, a person who acts with chessed will give without an impetus, and more than what is needed. As we know, Avraham prepared an entire cow for each guest, although one would have sufficed to satisfy all three guests. Giving above and beyond, and not based solely on a person's needs, was the pure expression of Avraham's chessed.

The Slonomer Rebbe, in his work Netivot Shalom, explains that chessed is a starting point for reaching ahavat Hashem. The more a person gives of himself to others, the more sensitive he becomes to other people's needs, and the more he builds a relationship with the klal. With giving, comes closeness. We know that Avraham reached insurmountable levels of Ahavat Hashem, as demonstrated by his willingness to sacrifice his beloved son because G-d asked him. Avraham had reached the highest levels of shleimut, completion, because his chessed was not in order to achieve a greater level of Ahavat Hashem, but his chessed was a result of the fact that he had already achieved that level – he was complete in both aspects.

Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, in his philosophical work Horeb, beautifully writes of chessed: "Hashem calls upon you to become a blessing with all He gives you, a blessing to those around you …. You are nothing so long as you exist only for yourself, that you only become something when you mean something to others." Avraham Avinu, quite literally, was a blessing to those around him! Avraham allows himself to serve as a source of aid to those around him, and in parshat Lech-Lecha Hashem thus promises to Avraham that his name will be used as a blessing forever.

As we know, ma'aseh avot siman lebanim- the actions of our forefathers are lessons for us. Although Avraham's unification of chessed and Ahavat Hashem leave much for us to strive for, we nevertheless can begin to take steps that follow in his ways. As we continue to work towards being true servants of G-d, may we be able to internalize the messages and lessons of our forefathers and continue to grow in their paths.

Shabbat Shalom.


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Vayera