Parshat Vayeira 5778: Hashem’s Bikkur Cholim, Avraham’s Hochnasat Orchim — Genetically Hard-Wired in Our Times

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Vayeira is being sponsored by Yossie and Ester Sussman and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of Yossie’s grandparents: R’ Kalman ben R’ Yitzchok Eliyahu and Chaya Sara bas Yaakov Shlomo and R’ Chizkiyahu Yaakov ben R’ Binyomin and Miriam bas Yaakov. To the Sussman family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Vayeira 5778: Hashem’s Bikkur Cholim, Avraham’s Hochnasat Orchim — Genetically Hard-Wired in Our Times

by Moshe Burt

In opening this vort on our Pashat Vayeira, this author returns to an excerpt from last week’s vort on Parshat Lech Lecha where Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah” (pages 36-37), cites Sefer Mimayanos Hanetzach regarding the importance of Chessed:

“Our forefather Avraham was outstanding in his kindness to wayfarers. He took in people who were traveling and expended great efforts to make his guests comfortable….”

While Parshat Lech Lecha dealt with Hashem’s call to Avraham to travel from the land of his birth to Hashem’s chosen land, Eretz Yisrael, as well as the Brit Bein HaBesorim (Covenant Between the Halves) and Hashem’s Command to Avraham to do Brit Milah (circumcision) on himself [and every male member of his household], our Parshat opens with Hashem, as we understand, visiting Avraham Avinu on the 3rd day after Brit Milah, when Avraham was at the height of his pain following the circumcision:

“And Hashem appeared to him beneath the trees of Mamre, as he was sitting before the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” (Translation rendered by “The New Hirsch Chumash,” Sefer Breish’t, Perek 18, posuk 1)

Rashi indicates, “to inquire about his welfare.” (Metsuda Linear Chumash rendering of Rashi on Perek 18, posuk 1)

It’s not like Hashem needed to pay a visit to ascertain Avraham’s actual condition. Hashem is the Creator, The Master, The Ruler over the world who knows and is aware of everything.

But Hashem knew that Avraham had built his life around knowing, and following the ways of his Creator and thus, it seems to this author, Hashem’s visit was to convey to Avraham His Love and Care. And so, as Hashem visited with Avraham, inquiring as to his well-being, Avraham pardoned himself from Hashem when he spotted travelers, inviting them into his tent.

Many of our S’forim and Chumashim seem to downplay the impact of the Bikur Cholim aspect of Hashem (as we understand), visiting Avraham Avinu, for the seemingly larger contexts of showing him honor for having done Bris Milah to himself, for his Hochnasat Orchim (his kindness and hospitality) toward his three guests (the Molochim — Angels) and the respective missions of the Molochim:

…Michael, who informed Avraham that Sarah would have a son; Gavriel, who overturned Sodom; and Raphael, who healed Avraham and saved Lot (Rashi, as explained by Gur Aryeh). The last two tasks, healing Avraham and saving Lot, constituted a single mission because they were for the sake of rescue. (Artscroll Chumash commentary of Perek 18, posuk 2 regarding Avraham’s sighting of “three men… standing over him.”)

While we previously learn of Avraham’s attributes of outreach and Hochnasat Orchim in Parshat Lech Lecha, his emphasis on the mitzvah of Hochnasat Orchim shows in even clearer focus in our Parshat Vayeira.

Yehudah Nachshoni, in his sefer “Studies in the Weekly Parashah,” cites Rabbeinu Bachya, Rabbeinu Chananel, as well as R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z”l and the Malbim (page 78-79):

Rabbeinu Bachya: …that the Torah says, “And Hashem appeared to him” and does not say “And Hashem appeared to Avraham”…. indicates that our Parshat is a continuation of the previous one [Parshat Lech Lecha], where we read that Avraham… [and every male member of his household] circumcised themselves.

Thus this Parshat tells us that as a result of the brit milah, Hashem came to visit him.

Rabbeinu Chananel also holds that this appearance by Hashem was related to the brit milah, but according to him it was not only Bikkur Cholim but was also a reward for observing the mitzvah.

R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z”l goes into this idea in depth. There is, of course, no place where Hashem is not, but when a person offers himself completely to Hashem, as Avraham did, he is worthy of actually seeing the Shechinah [Hashem’s Presence].

According to the Malbim, Torah even explains the nature of this appearance, which came because of Avraham’s mitzvah. This occurred in Eilonei Mamre, far from the place that Avraham had made an altar to Hashem. It occurred “at the entrance to the tent,” among people. Avraham did not isolate himself from others before Hashem appeared to him, as is customary among prophets. This appearance by Hashem took place “in the heat of the day,” when Avraham was not completely at ease. Torah tells us how Avraham’s soul was so elevated after his brit milah that he merited the revelation of the Shechinah, in spite of all those factors which would normally prevent such an appearance.

But the Artscroll Kleinman Edition of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Siman 193 provides a lengthy exposition on the mitzvot of Bikur Cholim. The Siman opens with a fuller explanation of the opening posuk (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 18, posuk 1) of Vayeira (Siman 193.1, page 350):

…We find that the Holy One,Blessed is He, that He visits the sick as the sages of blessed memory expounded (Sotah 14a) upon the… verse: “Hashem appeared to [Avraham] in the fields of Mamre…”; this teaches that Hashem came to him in order to visit the sick.

There is a note on the above explanation which states:

…We are enjoined to emulate Hashem and therefore we are obligated to visit the sick as well. (Siman 193.1, page 350).Siman 193.3 (Artscroll Kleinman Edition of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, page 352) provides essential components for visiting the sick:

…Examine the needs of the ill person and to see what he needs to be done for him; to enable the ill person to find comfort in the company of his friends; and also for the visitor to think about the ill person and pray for Divine mercy for him.

Our Parshat’s next posukim (Translation rendered in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 18, posukim 2-5) detail Avraham’s encounter with his guests, the Molochim, as he sat at his tent’s entrance, in the heat of the day, while in the worst of pain from his Bris Milah:

“He lifted his eyes and saw: And behold! three men were standing over him. He perceived, so he ran toward them and bowed toward the ground. And he said, ‘My Lord [singular, indicating: to Hashem], if I find favor in your eyes, please pass not away from Your servant.’” “Let some water be brought and wash your feet, and recline beneath the tree. I will fetch a morsel of bread that you sustain yourselves…” They said, “Do so, just as you have said.”

However, The Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary” renders posuk 3:

“‘My Lords [plural, seeming to indicate: the three men/melachim], if I find favor in your eyes, please pass not away from Your servant.’”

The Artscroll Stone Chumash, and an alternative Rashi in the Sapirstein Edition, “The Torah: with Rashi’s Commentary on posuk 3 seems to indicate Avraham asking Hashem that His Presence wait for him while he (Avraham) serves his guests.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash adds these comments on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 18, posukim 2-5 (page 79):

Avraham’s action [in leaving Hashem to care for his guests] shows that “hospitality to wayfarers is greater than receiving the Divine Presence.” (Shevuos 35b; Shabbos 127a)

“A morsel of bread.” From this understated, modest description of the sumptuous meal he was about to serve, the Talmud derives that “the righteous say little and do much.” (Bava Metzia 87a)

From these events contained in the first five posukim of our Parshat, we learn and gain insight both from Hashem as to the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim; showing, caring, giving strength and encouragement to the ill by visiting and caring about them, and from Avraham Avinu as to the Mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim; inviting guests into one’s home, as well as tefillah: as vehicles for emulating, connecting with and coming close to Hashem.

As a recipient of Bikur Cholim, this author can testify to this mitzvah’s profound affects on both the healing process and on the mental mindset of the recipient of this kindness. And this author, as a single and a senior, has experienced Hochnasat Orchim, on Shabbos and Yom Tov as well as other times in between, at the highest levels from chaverim (friends) in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

As stated in previous vorts, this author makes no claims to be a Talmud Chacham or a great Torah scholar of any note, but just a stam, poshut observant Jew, perhaps not deserving of any special treatment such as the likes of the honor shown by Hashem in visiting Avraham to lift his spirits in his time of great pain.

But the kindnesses shown, in emulation of Hashem’s Bikur Cholim model, Avraham Avinu’s paradigm of Hochnasat Orchim; whether during a Shiva (mourning period after loss of a close loved one) whether sitting in this community or from a distance such as in Florida, or the multitudes of calls and visits by their Ramat Beit Shemesh chaverim during hospitalizations or before and after surgeries and upon returning home, i.e. the preparation of meals and other kindnesses, which immeasureably aid the healing process and testified, that the Avul, the Choleh, that the lone individual, etc. is not alone. These kindnesses shown repeatedly, myriads of times towards their fellows in need, are surely emulations of both Hashem and of Avraham Avinu.

The Ramat Beit Shemesh community is a paradigm manifestation,genetically hard-wired, of both Hashem’s Bikur Cholim model, as well as Avraham Avinu’s paradigm of warmth and Hochnasat Orchim, and thus, is a model for emulation by Jews and kehillot everywhere toward their fellow Jews.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

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