Learning How to Give
The Sedra of Vayera opens with Abraham nursing his wounds after his brit – his testimony of faith to Hashem. This eternal covenant stands the test of time and ensures a lasting bond between God and His Chosen People. To comfort Abraham, God visits him while he is recovering. At the same time Abraham is visited by 3 strangers, whom we later discover are angels sent by God, each on his own mission, including telling Abraham he would have a son. This Sedra also finds Abraham saving Lot (his brother in law), Isaac being born to Abraham and Sarah, and concludes with the story of the Akeida, where Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his precious son Isaac.
Abraham was known to be many things, but the one character trait that he exemplified was that of chessed – loving kindness. It was known that he and his wife Sarah would always welcome and open their home to visitors, so it was unsurprising that Abraham, even in real discomfort, ran out to greet the 3 angels as they approached – everyone was always made to feel comfortable in their home.
Interestingly, our sages tell us that Abraham was known to serve meat and milk, and his guests would also be served their food under a tree. Why is this so important, especially as we know that Jewish People don’t mix milk and meat products?
One suggestion is that Abraham was so in touch with the needs of his guests, he wanted them to feel comfortable. If a wealthy merchant passed by, he was served a lavish meat meal inside the tent to maintain his life of luxury and extravagance. However, a poorer person might be offered a more modest milky meal outside under a tree in order to not embarrass him. Abraham was so in touch with the sensitivities of those he met, he understood how to give to a person according to their needs.
We often like to help, to be a friend and support those around us, however the best possible help is to ascertain exactly what they need. We tend to give to people based on what we want to do, but true giving is discovering what the other person really wants or needs. As we learn from Abraham, we need to open our hearts and truly learn how to give to others even if it is not how we naturally want to give.