This Friday afternoon, hundreds of school children will be bringing home their beautiful projects of Avraham’s house with four doors. We have all learned from a young age that Avraham is the pillar of chesed and had four doors on his house so travelers did not need to look hard to find an entrance. We also learned that at the beginning of this week’s parsha, we find Avraham’s greatest kindness. Three strangers come walking Avraham’s way and, even though he is in great pain, he runs to greet them. He invites them into his house and serves them a feast. He makes special foods just for them and shows how a person should fulfill the mitzvah of Hach’nasas Orchim (welcoming guests into our house).
Rav Yissochar Frand says an amazing thought. He says that although this is certainly a great thing that Avraham did, it was not the greatest chesed he ever did. The greatest chesed and the reason why he is looked at as the pillar of chesed is because of something that happens immediately after this story. It is the story of Sodom.
Sodom is a city of sinners. Las Vegas is called the City of Sin, but it is nothing compared to Sodom. Any sin that can be imagined was committed in this city. And Hashem had enough with the place. Hashem decided that it was time to destroy it and shared this with Avraham.
Now imagine yourself in Avraham’s shoes. Hashem, the Master and Ruler of the whole entire world, tells you that he is going to destroy a city full of sinners — what do you do? I would probably say, “It’s about time! What took you so long!” What does Avraham say — “No way, dude! You can’t!” Avraham argues with G-d and begs Him that if there are ten righteous people there, then you can’t destroy it. Who does Avraham think he is?
The person he is, is a Ba’al Chesed (Master of chesed). Many times we think that chesed can only be done by sharing money and possessions. Here Avraham shows us a much deeper meaning. By seeing the good in someone, we are being masters of chesed. The reason is because when you see good in someone, you treat them differently. You are kinder and care more for them.
Avraham knew that Sodom was a city of sinfulness. He knew that it deserved to be destroyed. But he also knew that we are required to look at people with a positive attitude. Avraham looked past everything bad and tried to focus on the good. That is why he is the Pillar of Chesed. Thank you Avraham for teaching this lesson to us…
By Rabbi Yaacov Seltzer