Parshas VaYeira: The Power of True Chessed
In Parsha Vayera, it seems that quite surprisingly we learn that Hachnasat Orchim, having guests, is more important than being with Hashem. After all, after Avraham’s bris, Avraham left Hashem’s presence in order to greet his guests? This seems jaw-dropping: if a big rabbi comes to your house, it sounds like Halacha says that you are supposed to leave him in order to take care of a needy person on the street! However, this is not the case.
Chessed in its ultimate form is done best when it is done solely for the goodness of giving to another.The Alter of Slabodka
The Alter of Slabodka answered this by explaining true chessed. He explains that there are two different types of chessed that will help explain Avraham’s behavior. The first type of chessed is helping people when they need it which pretty much falls down into the mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReacha CaMocha, meaning love your friend like yourself. The second type of chessed is going beyond a person’s need and constantly working on ways to help people. Avraham performed this great deed by giving wines, meats, and better food than necessary when providing for his guests, and he did it to emulate Hashem. Hashem made this world for us to enjoy and receive His goodness. So Avraham was able to leave Hashem’s presence and meet his guests; he didn’t leave Hashem! By going out of his way to help people, he brought Hashem into himself.
Some people do acts of chessed either because they feel obligated to, or because they want a reward for it in Olam Haba. They feel that in order to reserve a good spot in the next life, they need to do kindness, and even though they do not want to do chessed, they need to. Other people feel guilty that they are not doing acts of chessed, so they do one to relieve the pressure. These external ways of chessed are nice, but much less valuable than if we do them purely for Hashem. These acts of chessed let off a much bigger impact! Avraham realized this and yearned every moment for the opportunity to do an act of chessed for Hashem and made His Father in Heaven a part of himself. He learned that chessed in its ultimate form is done best when it is done solely for the goodness of giving to another. May we all be Zocheh to be able to do chessed like Avraham and bring Hashem into ourselves! Good Shabbos!
Zack Pollack (’22) is a staff writer for The Valley Torah Scroll.