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10/26/2018 10:58:50 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

In the opening verses of Parashat Vayeira, read this week, we witness various acts of hesed, kindness toward fellow human beings.  Just as Abraham is recovering from his circumcision, Hashem Himself comes to pay a visit.  The Talmud describes this as an action bikkur holim, the jewish value of visiting a person to offer comfort when they are not well (Sota 14a).  The Talmud concludes that just as Hashem visited Abraham after his brit milah we also have an obligation to visit the sick.  Furthermore, since elsewhere in the Torah (Deuteronomy 13) we are told "You shall follow after the Lord your God," that is interpreted to mean that we are to imitate Hashem's values and attributes.  Just as Hashem made clothes for Adam and Eve once they realized they were naked, we also have an obligation to provide clothing for those who are without.  Just as God comforted Isaac upon the death of his father, Abraham, and buried Moses in Moab, also we must comfort mourners in our community and bury our departed brothers and sisters.

Abraham himself taught us a beautiful lesson by example in the very next verse of our Parasha.  Despite that he was still recovering from his circumcision and he was under the weather enough to be visited by Hashem, Abraham rushes out to welcome in guests who were near his home.  This act teaches us another important Jewish value of hospitality and welcoming guests.

Indeed, hospitality, visiting the sick, and comforting mourners are more than just values - they are commandments incumbent upon all of us.  Yet, there are no specific verses in the Torah instructing us to perform these acts.  It seems that there are many mitzvot that the Torah teaches us by detailing specific commandments, while others are taught not by explicit instruction, but by example.  We are shown by God, our ancestors, sages and teachers how to behave and then we are expected to emulate their ways.  

Similarly, we are aware that our behavior serves as a model for others.  If we give charity to worthy causes, others will follow suit.  If we value active participation in our synagogue community, others will join.  If we stand up for Israel, others will be inspired by our example.  If we make Jewish ethics and rituals ever present in our homes, the next generation will internalize those values and we will fulfill our duty to "...follow after the Lord your God."

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Suson

Tue, July 14 2020 22 Tammuz 5780