by Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer
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"HaShem appeared to him (Avrohom) in the groves of Mamrei and he was
sitting at the door of the tent, in the heat of the day."
Rashi quotes the Gemorah that HaShem brought the sun out of its sheath so that he would not be burdened by travellers. Yet, when He saw that Avrohom was grieved that no travellers were coming, He brought the angels to him in the guise of men. Were it to be that there were travellers, yet Avrohom who just had his Bris at an old age, was unable to attend to them. We can understand he would be pained. However if there were no guests who needed hospitality for whatever reason, then was Avrohom distressed?
The Navi Micha admonishes Klal Yisroel "It has been told to you, oh man, what is good, and what does HaShem require of you. Only to act justly, to love kindness..." (Micha 6:8). At first sight, it would seem that it should have been sufficient for scripture either to read:' to act with justice and kindness', or else ' to love justice and kindness'.
The Chofetz Chaim answers that the Novi has thereby drawn our attention toa new and important lesson, to an area where almost everyone is at fault. Indeed, we all perform acts of kindness. Yet we are kind only under pressure. When a person in distress, needing our favour, turns to us once, and again a second time, we find it difficult to avoid him, so we extend help to him. Even then we act not at all willingly or kindheartedly. So the Navi exhorts us:' what does HaShem require of you: only to love kindness. You should not think that by your occasional acts of kindness you have discharged your duty completely.' Instead one must possess a love for this mitzvah.
Obviously a great difference lies between what a person does because of
pressure and what he does out of love. We see how we, ourselves, act
towards our children, in pursuit of food and clothing, in marriage, and
in all that is motivated by love. Here every person ranges far beyond
his duty. A father seeks to bring benefit to his son even when the
latter has not asked for it. He is happy and in good spirits when he
does so. So in this case, if a person really loves this trait of
chessed, he will search with all his might (strength), for the ways and
means to do good to his fellow man, and he will act generously.
Avrohom Avinu personified the Midah of chessed. Not only did he rise to the occasion when he was called upon, he went out of his way to actively seek opportunities to do chessed. His tremendous love for chessed would cause distress if there was no occasion to bestow his benevolence.
The Gemorah in Makkos 24A explains the above possuk: 'to love kindness' to refer to the performance of kind deeds. Horav Shlomo Walbe Shlita, asks what is the Gemorah teaching us that I would not have understood from the possuk alone? He answers that Chazal are telling us that a genuine act of assistance could only come from a love of kindness. Only someone who truly has ahavas chessed will be able to help out without thinking of repayment.
The Brisker Rov asks why is it that when relating about Avrohom's hospitality, the Torah goes into great detail and length. Whereas by Lot, even though he risked his life for the sake of his guests, the Torah does not give it much attention. Avrohom's guests came disguised as Arabs and even so, he treated them with the utmost respect. Lot, on the other hand, recognised that his guests were angels and felt obliged to welcome them.
How was it that Avrohom excelled in chessed to the level that he treated even the most simple person like a king. The answer is that he truly perceived everyone as a king. Just as anyone would rush to do a favour for a king, so too Avrohom sought every opportunity to give a helping hand. this came from his strong love for kindness.
Rabbi Yehoshua Aron Sofer, Kollel Beis HaTalmud Yehuda Fishman Institute, Melbourne Australia
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