Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Vayera - 5776

My friends,

This is the second Parasha that describes our father Abraham's journey through Canaan, and events in his life. We don't know much about the early life of Abraham. But in this Parasha we learn that he was a kind, compassionate man who did acts of Chesed, kindness.

The portion begins with Abraham sitting by the entrance to his tent, in the heat of the day, and he sees three men walking at a distance. He runs towards them and pleads with them to stop by his tent so that he can offer them some water and food, and a place to rest before continuing on with their journey. The Torah describes how this 99 year old man runs to fetch a calf and gives it to his worker to prepare it for the guests. He also asks Sarah to make some bread and he personally serves the guests and watches them as they eat and rest under the tree.

The second story tells us of Abraham's compassion even for the inhabitants of Sodom, who were known as evil people. He asked G-d to spare the city if there should be there 50, 40, 30 20, or even just ten individuals who might be good people.

These two stories teach us the kind of person that Abraham was. This is before the Torah was given. We can't say that he kept all the Mitzvot of the Torah, but he kept the Mitzvah of Gemelus Chassadim, acts of kindness. He also had a tremendous love for humans, even total strangers - sinners in this case - because of the importance of "Veahavta Lere-acha Kamocha" - Love your neighbor like yourself. Our sages tell us that to be a descendant of Abraham you must have this quality of being Rahaman, compassionate.

We live in a world that can use compassion and acts of kindness. When Abraham says to the strangers "and I will give you some bread", he does not actually say "and I will give you", but "and I will take some bread". This is to emphasize that when we 'give' we really 'take'. Because those are the acts of Chesed, kindness, that we can fulfill because of G-d's blessings.

May you be privileged to fulfill many acts of Chesed - kindness - and Rahamim - compassion - because those are the signs that you are a descendant of Abraham.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram