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Acts of kindness

Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

The Torah portion of “Vayeira” (Genesis 18:1 – 22:24) is one in which we are overwhelmed by acts of kindness.

Abraham, the first Jew, performs a circumcision upon himself just as God has commanded him. From that moment onwards the circumcision became the physical imprint, the physical sign in every male Jew that he is a son of Abraham, a member of the Jewish people. If one looks closely at the Scripture one will notice that until this time Abraham was actually called “Abram”. Following the circumcision, however, Abram’s name was changed to “Abraham” forever. A name which means “A father to a multitude of nations”.

You can imagine that it wasn’t easy for a 99 year old man to circumcise himself. By the third day following the circumcision Abraham was in the most pain. He was suffering. He needed a good hospital rather than the hot desert sun. In what was to be a lesson for all mankind, God Himself comes to visit Abraham! That’s right! The act of visiting the sick was introduced to the world by God Himself. This is how our portion begins. “Vayeira“, which means “God Appeared” refers to God appearing and revealing himself to Abraham as an act of kindness by visiting Abraham who was sick. You can imagine how Abraham must have been cheered up to have such a special guest come to visit him in his time of pain. Visiting the Sickwhat we call “bikkur cholim” – a Divine act of kindness.

We are taught that not only was God’s presence revealed to Abraham, but God also sent angels, disguised as men to visit him too. This leads us to our next act of kindness in this week’s portion: “hachnassat orchim”….welcoming guests.

Abraham was not to be outdone. Although it was the third day following his circumcision, when Abraham saw the three “men” passing by his tent he ran to greet them! He implored them to stop a few minutes by his tent so that they could rest and be refreshed. Hospitality. Welcoming guests into one’s home. A great kindness that Abraham exemplified. He didn’t merely welcome them into his tent, he gave them water, a place to rest, and fed them the finest foods. Only after these three ‘men’ were properly rested and prepared to continue on in the desert heat was Abraham prepared to allow them to leave.

The acts of God and Abraham are not only examples that Jews must live by – they are examples that all mankind must live by. Caring about another person. Seeking their welfare. Providing for their needs. Feeding the Hungry. Clothing the naked (God himself did that too to Adam and Chava!)

The United with Israel family has big Abrahamic shoes to fill. May God bless us all with brotherhood and peace.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!

Rabbi Ari Enkin

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