VaYera: When Receiving is Giving

“And [Avraham] said: ‘My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, pass not away, please, from your servant.” (Genesis 18:3)

Our forefather Avraham (Abraham) exemplified the attribute of loving kindness, as demonstrated in numerous episodes in the Torah, notably his encounter with the three “wayfarers” in Genesis 18. Avraham’s behavior serves as a model for all generations of the ideal manner in which to perform kindness for others. Rather than presenting himself as a benevolent philanthropist looking for poor souls upon whom to bestow benefit, Avraham treats the wayfarers as though they stand in the higher position and that he desires that they bestow a kindness upon him! He confers upon them the title “lord” and depicts himself as their servant. Avraham indicates that he is the recipient of kindness and they the givers if they acquiesce to his plea to stay for a visit with him, when in fact the opposite was the case. But we learn from Avraham that indeed the highest form of giving is to make the receiver feel that he or she is the giver. Everyone knows that while receiving a kindness involves a benefit to the one who receives, the receiver cannot help but feel diminished by feeling “needy” or “undeserving” of the benefit received. Avraham, the master of loving kindness, ensured that even in giving, the greatest gift he could confer upon another was to turn them into the giver. He presented himself as someone who needed something from them, that is, that they allow him the privilege of serving them. Let us learn from Avraham, increase our capacity for giving, and in doing so, empower the recipients of our kindness to unlock their own potential to walk in the footsteps of our forefathers.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Avraham learned all his upright behaviors by studying the ways of God. How does Avraham’s behavior mirror that of the Creator? Please comment.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas VaYera

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