Klal Yisroel is identified for its Mida of Chesed.  We have numerous Mitzvos instructing us as to the high regard Hashem places on the Mida of Chesed.  Chesed is one of the three things which supports the entire world at all times.[1]  No less than the Shulchan Orech itself states that Chesed is synonymous with being a Jew.[2]  It is one of our inherent characteristics[3].  We all learn from the youngest of ages that we inherited this Mida from our Patriarch Avraham.  Yet, precious little is really told to us in the Torah about Avraham’s remarkable acts of Chesed.  Aside from taking care of Lot, this weeks Parsha seems to be the big story of Avraham’s Chesed.  Shortly after having given himself a Bris, strangers (Malachim) show up at Avraham’s tent and he immediately begins preparations for a meal for them.  Very nice indeed, but is that really the stuff of which legends are made? 

Even stranger is that there are what appear to be far greater acts of Chesed in Sefer Bereishis. Hashem clothes Adam and Chava right after they defied his lone Tziva; Noach cares for all the animals during the entire Mabul;  Lot offers his own daughters to protect some Ohrchim; Sarah gives her maidservant to Avraham so he would have a child; Rochel gives up her husband to save her sister from being embarrassed.  Yet, nowhere do we see that any of these instances are held up as the quintessential example of Chesed.  Avraham fed a meal to some strangers and this apparently surpasses these acts, which upon a superficial glance appear to be more impressive.  How do we understand this?

Years ago, my father explained this difficulty as follows:  There are a great number of people who when they have the chance to do Chesed do so in incredible ways.  Some of those are cited above.  But Avraham is the only one we see where he was suffering when he did not have the opportunity.  Avraham’s mitzious was to do Chesed and when Hashem made it very hot so that strangers would not come by his tent that day, Avraham was suffering over that lack of opportunity.  That is how Avraham became the Patriarch who stood for the Mida of Chesed.  Not because he did nice things but rather he woke up each morning craving for the chance.  And if he didn’t have that chance, it pained him.  That’s the kind of character of which a people are built around. 

Mi Kiamcha Yisroel.  Who looks to help their brother like Klal Yisroel?  Who goes and gives medical and emergency aid to their enemy like Klal Yisroel?  That is not an accident.  It’s who we are. It’s in our blood.  If you don’t feel it, you may not really be Jewish.  We get them from our Great Great Great Grandfather Avraham.  What a legacy.

[1]Pirkei Avos 1:3

[2] Even HaEzer, Hilchos Pirya V’rivya, 2:2

[3] Be’er Heytiv, Hilchos Pirya V’rivya, 2:2:5