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The Midrash relates that Avraham met Shem, the son of Noach, and asked him in what merit were he and his family privileged to go out of the Ark and were saved from the Flood. He answered, "In the merit of the charity which we performed there." Avraham asked him, "What charity were you able to perform there? There were no poor people there, just Noah and his children." Shem answered, "We performed charity with the wildlife. We couldn't sleep all night long; we were busy feeding everything according to its eating schedule. Once we were a bit late and the Lion wounded my father in protest."
Avraham then concluded, "If the kindness that they showed to animals is so great that in that merit they were saved from the Flood, imagine how much greater a mitzvah it will be if I perform loving kindness with human beings who are created in the liking of their Creator."
From this realization, Avraham became the great pillar of chessed upon which the world stood. And even until today, the Children of Avraham, the Jewish People, are outstanding in the characteristic of charity and goodwill to others.
But we must realize that it is not enough to be kind to those whom we love. The biggest mitzvah is to be kind to those with whom we are in a dispute. The following moving story from the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 34:14) delivers a very powerful message to all of us.
In the days of Rabbi Tanchuma, the Jews needed rain. They came before him and said, "Our Rabbi, declare a fast day so that it should rain." He decreed a fast day once and twice but it did not rain. The third time he got up and preached that everyone should take upon himself to perform a mitzvah. One man got up and took whatever money he had in his house and went out to distribute it.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network