This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Vol. 23 No. 4
R' Yaakov ben Eliezer z"l
whose Yohrzeit was on 24 Cheshvan
by his children
The Chesed of Avraham
"And he raised his eyes and he saw that behold, three men were standing 'over' him, and he saw and he ran to greet them from the entrance of his tent and he prostrated himself to the ground" (18:2).
It was the third day after his B'ris Milah and, at ninety-nine, Avraham was particularly weak and vulnerable.
G-d therefore, in His infinite mercy, deemed it befitting to interfere with His own laws of nature to protect the man on whose behalf He had created them in the first place. 'He took the sun out of its bag', as Rashi explains, and a sweltering heat-wave ensued. As a result, no-one could walk the streets and Avraham Avinu was duly protected from 'unwanted' guests.
As far as Avraham was concerned, however, guests were anything but unwanted. In fact, so perturbed was he at the absence of visitors, as he gazed up and down the deserted streets, that G-d, in order to put his mind at ease, was forced to send angels disguised as Arabs, to satisfy his craving for guests. The moment Avraham saw the guests standing at the threshold of his tent, he arose and ran to greet them - in spite of his advanced age, in spite of his pain, in spite of the intolerable heat.
This is how Chazal describe the strange scenario that took place on that Pesach day, year 2038.
A number of difficulties however, present themselves:
1). Why did G-d see fit to 'take the sun out of its bag' to prevent wayfarers from disturbing Avraham? Why did He not simply lead all local travelers in opposite directions - like He would lure the Egyptians to the Yam-Suf over four hundred years later?
2). Why did He opt to send angels when He could just as well have returned the sun to its bag, thereby allowing people to return to the streets - though this question is easily answered when we bear in mind that the angels were actually sent on a triple mission - curing Avraham, informing Sarah of the imminent birth of a son and rescuing Lot. Consequently, their timely visit could hardly be considered an unnatural occurrence.
3). Why, in the first place, did He turn on the heat - bearing in mind Avraham's desire for guests?
To answer the above questions, we need to stress that G-d of course was aware of Avraham's reaction to having no visitors and that it was, because of it, not in spite of it, that He initiated the chain of events under discussion. The function of miracles is to make known to mankind the extent of G-d's greatness, or whatever it is that He wants publicized. Hence the word 'Neis', which also means a flag-pole or a flag, as in the phrase that we recite in the Amidah "ve'so neis' (and hoist a flag) and is also the root of the word 'nisoyon' (a trial). In this particular case, G-d wanted to demonstrate to the world the extent of Avraham's unique kindness. He set out to prove that Avraham's kindness was certainly not based on selfish motives, and that it was not even the result of any momentary need, but because of an innate love of the Mitzvah of Chesed which no power on earth could quell. Avraham loved performing acts of kindness because he understood that the essence of man's creation was giving, not taking.
It is only because G-d set off the above described chain reaction, beginning with 'taking the sun out of its bag', that the extent of Avraham's 'midas ha'chesed' emerges. Most of us cannot even imagine heat so intense that it is literally impossible to walk outside. Yet the intensity of Avraham's love of Chesed was more intense still. One cannot imagine an elderly man after a major operation getting up from his hospital bed to greet a friend. Yet the satisfaction in greeting a total stranger was so profound that it dispelled any pain or discomfort that Avraham had, to the point that not only did get up - he performed the seemingly impossible by running to welcome his guests.
It is against the background of the unnatural circumstances described above that the magnitude of Avraham is revealed. It is against that background that Avraham stands out as the greatest ba'al-chesed of them all!
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Important Events in
Seifer Bereishis (cont.)
(Adapted from the Seider ha'Doros)
2018 … The Battle of the Kings - Avraham & Sarah return to Charan.
2023 … Avraham marries Hagar.
2033 … Yishmael is born.
2023 … Avraham performs the B'ris Milah - The angels visit Avraham - Sodom and Amorah are overturned.
2048 … Yitzchak is born.
2085 … The Akeidah - Rivkah is born.
2088 … Yitzchak marries Rivkah.
2123 … Avraham dies.
2158 … Shem, No'ach's son, dies.
2164 … Leah is born.
2171 … Ya'akov receives the B'rachos and flees to the Yeshivah of Shem ve'Eiver.
2180 … Rachel is born.
2186 … Ya'akov arrives in Choron.
2187 … Eiver dies.
2192 … Ya'akov marries Leah and Rachel - he works another seven years for Lavan.
2195 … Levi is born.
2199 … Yosef is born - Ya'akov opts to work another six years - he be-comes extremely wealthy.
2205 … Ya'akov runs away from Lavan - He encounters Eisav.
2206 … Dinah is abducted by Sh'chem. Shimon & Levi destroy the town of Sh'chem.
2207 … Rivkah and Devorah (her nurse) both die at the same time.
2208 … Ya'akov's name is changed to Yisrael. Rachel gives birth to Bin-yamin and dies in childbirth at the age of 28.
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