The intensity of Avraham’s love of chesed was more intense than the heat
“And he raised his eyes and he saw… three men… and he ran to greet them…” (Bereishis 18:2)
It was the third day after his bris milah and at 99, Avraham was particularly weak and vulnerable. Hashem therefore deemed it befitting to interfere with His own laws of nature and “He took the sun out of its casing,” causing a sweltering heatwave.
Yet Avraham was so perturbed that there were no guests that Hashem sent him three angels to host. (Rav Eliezer Chrysler, Midei Shabbos)
If you can’t stand the heat… you’re welcome to my house. I’m a cold person, thrive in the winter, keep the windows open round the year and should be living in Alaska, as opposed to a country with desert-like conditions. I don’t own a winter coat (don’t worry, my mother knows this; she’s the same way), and I’ve been known to tell my kids, “Take off that sweater because Mommy’s hot.”
A number of difficulties however, present themselves here: Knowing Avraham’s desire for guests, why did Hashem try to prevent him from hosting at all? Furthermore, why did Hashem see fit to actually change nature, as opposed to simply blocking travelers from heading in Avraham’s direction?
So, midday on a sweltering July afternoon was not my favorite time to be out and about. But I had an appointment with a doctor whose offices were in Shaare Zedek, so I made my way through the hazy heat waves of the parking lot to the blessed cool of the lobby. When my appointment was over, I headed to visit a friend of mine who was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. Because of Covid guidelines, the hospital did not allow standard visiting options, but since I was already permitted into the building, I was able to visit her when she probably had no one else coming.
To answer the above questions, we need to stress that Hashem of course was aware of Avraham’s desire to host visitors and that it was because of this, not in spite of this, that He initiated the chain of events under discussion. The function of miracles is to make known to mankind the extent of Hashem’s greatness, or whatever it is that He wants publicized. In this particular case, Hashem wanted to demonstrate to the world the extent of Avraham’s unique kindness, that it was not based on any ulterior motives, but on the innate love of chesed, which no power on earth could quell. Therefore, Hashem changed nature, setting off its chain reaction to highlight the extent of Avraham’s chesed.
Most of us cannot even imagine heat so intense that it is literally impossible to walk outside. But the intensity of Avraham’s love of chesed was more intense still. Imagine an elderly man after a major operation getting up from his hospital bed to greet a friend, in heat so great it cannot be endured.
Avraham’s satisfaction in greeting a total stranger was so profound that it dispelled any pain — to the point that he went running to welcome his guests. Only against the background of these unnatural circumstances could we truly understand the magnitude of Avraham’s chesed.
Finding her room, I knocked on the door and stepped into… a sauna. My friend was propped up in bed, wrapped in many layers of sweaters, and shivering, despite the thermostat being set to the highest (in July!). Apparently, the stroke had affected her ability to regulate temperature.
Upon seeing me, her face lit up, “You’re my first visitor!” she exclaimed “How did they let you in?”
Taking a deep breath, (it was like swallowing air from a clothes’ dryer) I sat down next to her and tried to make conversation. I was sweltering. Boiling, melting, and any other adjective that fit the bill.
But she was so excited to have visitors, holding my hand tightly, that the minutes ticked by and despite my extreme discomfort, five minutes stretched to fifteen to a half an hour before I said my goodbyes. Closing the door to her room behind me, I leaned against the wall in the hall, greedily gasping in breaths of the cool AC.
Still, I was feeling good. Although I can’t stand the heat, my heart can.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 764)
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