The Chesed of Avraham by Rabbi Joel Grossman

(2004/5765) In the beginning of this week’s parsha the Torah
describes how Avraham Avinu was sitting dejectedly as
Rashi says, because there were no guests and he wanted
to perform the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim. Rav Moshe
Feinstein in his Darash Moshe says that it is very difficult
to understand, why Avraham was so upset, since there is
no Mitzvah if there are no guests. Rav Moshe compares it
to someone who is sad on Tuesday that today isn’t
Shabbat! There is no point to it! Rav Moshe explains that
the reason for Avraham’s sadness was because of his
great love to do acts of kindness. It is itself a Mitzvah to
desire to be involved in Mitzvot, in particular acts of
kindness, in the same way that people desire certain foods
or other physical pleasures. The fact that the food they
want is not in front of them does not take away their
hunger for it; the only way to end their hunger, is to find
that food and partake of it.
This was the intensity of the hunger of Avraham to
do acts of kindness; even though potential guests were not
available, he still thirsted for the Mitzvah.
We are the descendants of Avraham Avinu and
must learn from his wonderful desire to do Mitzvot, how we
should behave. The Gemara says that one of the three
character traits of a Jew is someone who is Gomel
Chesed, who does acts of kindness. Many of us talk about
the importance of giving charity, which of course is a very
big Mitzvah, but the Gemara in Masechet Succah teaches
us that in three ways, Gemilut Chessed is even a greater
Mitzvah than giving charity. They are: 1) Tzedakah is only
to the poor where Gemilut Chessed can be done for the
rich too and 2) Tzedakah can only be done with your
money while Gemilut Chessed can be done with you’re
body, too, and 3) Tzedakah can only be done to the living
while Gemilut Chessed can be done to the dead, as well.
There is a famous story told about a man who was brought up in a religious home but when he went off to college,
decided to give up on religion and become totally secular. One
day, many years later, when he was at work and very successful,
he heard some children playing outside. Suddenly, he heard a
loud crash and then one of the boys screaming. He went to the
window to see what happened and heard the boy scream over
and over, “What will father say!” After a while he went outside to
try to do an act of kindness and calm down the boy. He asked
him what happened and why he was crying so much. The boy
related that he was very poor and his father had saved enough
money in order to buy oil for the Chanukah menorah and he
asked him to purchase the oil and bring it straight home for use
tonight on the first night of Chanukah. Instead he stopped to play
with his friends and the bottle of oil broke and that is why he
stood there screaming, “What will my father say.” The
businessman took out some money from his wallet and gave it to
the boy and told him to buy new oil and bring it home and enjoy
Chanukah. When the boy ran off, the sound of “what will my
father say” kept resounding in the man’s head and he asked
himself the same question, what will my Father say about the
way I am living my life. He decided right then and there to come
back to Judaism. We see from this story that when we help
others, we help ourselves as well. May we learn this message of the love of Gemilut
Chassadim from Avraham Avinu and may we keep this
story in mind as we constantly ask ourselves, “What will
my father say,” and hopefully, we can live our lives in a
way that we emulate our father Avraham, where we worry
about the needs of others, not only ourselves, and make
this world a better place for everyone to live.

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