Cutting The Apron Strings
"Avraham made a great feast on the day Yitzchak was weaned" (21:8)
Although Rashi interprets "beyom higamal" as "on the day Yitzchak was
weaned", the Midrash records an opinion which says that it was Yitzchak's
Bar-Mitzva day which was being celebrated. If "beyom higamal" can be
translated as both "he was weaned" and "he became Bar-Mitzva", there should
be a connection between the two.
Weaning a child represents the child's becoming independent.
The child is no longer viewed as an appendage of his mother, rather he is
his own person. The Midrash is teaching that when a child reaches legal
majority, he should be treated as a separate individual, no longer attached
to his parents. With the acceptance of the responsibility of mitzvot should
come some form of independence.
This explains why we refer to the child as a Bar-Mitzva, utilizing the
Aramaic term for "son", rather than the Hebrew term, which would be "Ben
mitzva". Bar comes from the Aramaic word "bera" which means "outside of" or
"separate from". Ben is derived from the Hebrew word "binyan" which means
"building" or "attachment". A child that undergoes circumcision is known as
a Ben-bris because the procedure attaches him to his nation.
Since our children give us a sense of continuity, we often view them as
extensions of ourselves. As parents we have to be careful that we do not
live vicariously through our children. We have to realize that they are also
separate from us and need their own individuality.
2.Bereishis Rabbah 53:14
"...and G-d remembered Avraham; so He sent Lot from amidst the upheaval
when He overturned the cities in which Lot had lived."(19:30)
The simple interpretation of the verse is that Hashem saved Lot's life only
in the merit of Avraham. Rashi, however, offers the Midrashic
interpretation, explaining that Lot merited to be saved as a result of what
he did for Avraham; when in Egypt, Lot did not expose the fact that Avraham
and Sarah were really married. The Maharal explains that Rashi prefers
the Midrashic explanation, for Lot's relationship to Avraham would not have
been sufficient reason for him to be saved. The Midrash seems to be
implying that Lot's actions were of greater consequence than Lot's
relationship to Avraham. The Mizrachi has difficulty with this Midrash, for
he points out that even a person's worst enemy would not divulge information
which would lead to his murder. Therefore, why were Lot's actions considered
to be so meritorious?
Generally, we perceive that a person is rewarded commensurate with the
effort involved in his actions. While this is true, the Midrash is teaching
us that there is a second criteria in determining a person's worthiness for
reward. Hashem focuses on the effects of the actions in question. Although
the act itself may not require significant effort, if the consequences
resulting from it are far-reaching, one may be entitled to a great reward.
Although Lot's actions were not significant in and of themselves, they
resulted in the preservation of Avraham, thereby giving Lot a share in the
formation of Klal Yisroel. It is possible that due to to his involvement,
Lot also receives a share in the Monarchy of Yisroel, King David being a
descendant of Ruth the Moabite, who in turn descended from Lot. This
gives Lot a connection to Mashiach who will stem from the Davidic Dynasty.
3.Gur Arye ibid.
5.Ruth 4:17 6.Bereishis 19:37 7..Yeshaya 11:1.
Minimizing The "I"M
"And he saw them and he ran toward them..."(18:2)
Parshas Vayeira showcases Avraham's attribute of chesed. The Torah gives a
detailed account of the manner in which he fulfills the mitzva of inviting
guests into one's home. Since Avraham is defined as the Patriarch of chesed,
and the narrative in this week's parsha is the primary example of this
attribute, careful analysis of Avraham's actions should result in
understanding the Torah's definition of chesed. What must be understood is
the exposure given by the Torah, to Lot's fulfillment of the mitzva of
"hachnasas orchim"; why is there a need for such detail?Furthermore, if one
contrasts the two stories, Lot appears to be more accommodating to his
guests than Avraham was.
Avraham awaits his guests in the confines of his home "He was sitting at the
entrance of the tent", and Lot awaits at the gate of the city - "Lot was
sitting at the gate of Sodom". Avraham offers a meal "And I will take a
little piece of bread for you to sustain yourselves", while Lot prepares
a feast -"And he made for them a feast." Avraham offers them to rest in
the shade of his tree "And recline beneath the tree". Lot offers them
lodging for the night -"Turn about, please, to your servant's house; spend
the night." Avraham welcomes his guests while still experiencing the pain
from his circumcision, while Lot risks his life in order to welcome his
guests, for in Sodom offering lodging to non-citizens was a capital offense.
If the intention of this parsha is to showcase the chesed of Avraham, why
does the Torah depict Lot's chesed in a manner which seems to overshadow
that of Avraham's?
The act of chesed can make the recipient uncomfortable. No one enjoys being
dependent upon another person. How, then, can the benefactor overcome this
hurdle? When performing a chesed, one emulates Hashem, for "Olam Chesed
Yibaneh" - " The world was created with chesed"- the world's existence is
a manifestation of Hashem's attribute of chesed. Therefore, creation offers
the key to the appropriate way to perform chesed. Hashem created Adam last
in the order of creation. If He would have created Adam first, Hashem would
have been emphasizing the chesed which He performed for Adam; Adam would
have seen that everything in creation was being created specifically for
him. Therefore, Hashem first created the world, with everything that was
necessary for Adam's survival, and only then did He create Adam. In this
manner, Hashem minimized the direct assistance he was giving Adam, and
therefore, lessened Adam's feelings of dependency.
Similarly, when we perform a chesed, we must minimize the perception of our
role as the benefactor. This allows the recipient to accept the kindness
without feeling completely beholden. We should not accentuate the imposition
which the guest is causing us, for the less the guest feels we are doing
specifically for him, the more comfortable he will be.
Most chesed is not performed with this outlook. We often perform chesed
because we find it personally fulfilling to be benefactors. The more we
emphasize our role in the act, the greater our satisfaction. This type of
chesed is self-serving; it neglects the feelings of the recipient.
It is these two types of chesed which the Torah is contrasting. Avraham
performed the chesed which emulates Hashem. Avraham downplayed any
imposition which the guests may be causing him, offering only that which
already existed, such as shade, bread, etc. (once they become comfortable
with the invitation, he upgrades the menu). Consequently, the recipients
felt totally comfortable accepting Avraham's offer.
On the other end of the spectrum, we see from the story line that Lot's form
of chesed was self-serving. When he first offered his guests lodging, they
reacted in a manner which would appear to be rude. They said, - "We would
rather sleep in the street." The only possible explanation for their
response is that the manner in which Lot offered them his assistance
emphasized his magnanimity. This elicited a response which reflected their
level of discomfort. Lot made a feast in which he provided his best finery
and his fanciest silverware, for this gave him satisfaction. This also
explains how it is possible that Lot was willing to offer his daughters in
order to protect his guests. For a true baal chesed such behavior would be
inconceivable. However, Lot does this because his hospitality reflects his
own magnanimity. This is what gives him satisfaction. The verse supports
this with a statement of Lot's beseeching the inhabitants o Sodom not to
harm the guests: - "They are under my protection." Clearly, Lot is only
concerned with how his guests' well being reflects upon him.
The Torah records the chesed of Lot, for it highlights the chesed of
Avraham. The important factor in performing acts of kindness is minimizing
the discomfort of the recipient. Self-fulfillment should not be the impetus
for the performance. of a chesed.