Such was Avraham Avinu

Why would Rashi say that Abraham was distressed because it was too hot for wayfarers to benefit from his hospitality - after all, there is no obligation to perform that mitzva unless people come by.

Danny Ginsbourg, | updated: 12:52

Judaism חסד

Rav Moshe Feinstein zts"l is ‘surprised’, by the commentary of Rashi, on the pasuk in our parsha:(18:1)'And Avraham ‘was sitting at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day’

Rashi:’ Hashem caused the sun to be at its hottest, so as not to trouble Avraham with visitors to attend to’-this being the third, and most painful, day since his Brit Milah -‘but when He saw how distressed Avraham was at there being no wayfarers, Hashem brought the three angels in the guise of men’.

Wonders the Rav: On the face of it, there was no place for Avraham’s distress, דלא שייך חיוב כשליכא אורחים: there is no ‘relevance’ to any obligation of הכנסת אורחים:hospitality, when there are no passers-by!
This is like one who is distressed on a weekday because it is not Shabbat!

However, he explains:So great was Avraham Avinu’s love of chesed, that he was like a man who has a great craving for a certain food; and even he does not now have it, and may never have it, his craving remains unabated, until it is fulfilled.

Such was the ‘craving’, the need of Avraham Avinu, to do chesed, by extending hospitality to wayfarers.

The Chatam Sofer adds a beautiful insight to this. He notes that Avraham is not mentioned by name, in our parsha, until he is actively doing chesed, not just ‘thinking’ about it: Only in the sixth and seventh psukim, is he named:

’So Avraham hastened to the tent to Sarah..;then Avraham ran to the cattle..’.

Expounds the Sage:He was only truly ‘Avraham’, when he was DOING chesed.

What motivated Avraham?

Perhaps the ‘motive, might be found in the singular praise that Avraham received from the prophet Isaiah(41:8):אברהם אוהבי: ’Avraham, who loves Me’- who loves Hashem.

Why did he merit this praise? Might not the answer be found in the words of David Hamelech:(Psalm 89:3)’כי אמרתי עולם חסד יבנה׳- which the Netivot Shalom expounds, as:’I, Hashem said, the world will be built, by chesed’.

Avraham Avinu’s ‘need’ to do chesed was because of his great love of Hashem: he ‘had to do’ that which would give נחת רוח: ‘pleasure’, to his Beloved: the fulfillment of His ‘Purpose’ for the world He created- by acts of chesed.

Rav Zalman Sorozkin finds an allusion to this great ‘need’ of Avraham Avinu to do chesed, in his plea to the three wayfarers:(18:3)’If I find favor in YOUR eyes, please pass not away from your servant’: let me extend my hospitality to you.

Comments the Rav:’We are accustomed to the sight of wayfarers seeking to find favour in the eyes of the locals, in the hope of being permitted to enter their homes; but Avraham pleads that HE find favor in the wayfarers’ eyes, that they allow him to extend hospitality to them; and, when they acquiesce, he prepares a veritable feast for them.

The Torah relates each and every step, and action, that our ninety-nine(!) year old ‘father’ took, to honor his visitors, to emphasize the zechut he felt, by their acceptance of his hospitality.

The Rav ‘challenges’ each of us, by noting- or asking ‘rhetorically’- ’How far have we fallen from the הכנסת אורחים of Avraham Avinu?!’.

So, how would we respond if confronted by wayfarers, seeking hospitality?

Hopefully, by acting as did Avraham Avinu, our ‘father’ and role-model’!

לרפואת נחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.