It was only at this moment that Avraham was worthy of wearing Hashem’s cloak of Kindness
“And afterward, Avraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpeilah….” (Bereishis 23:19)
he Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 58:9) says: Hashem said to Avraham, “My craft is doing acts of kindness. Now [after providing the burial needs for Sarah] you have taken hold of My craft. Come and wear My garment [of Kindness.] (Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky, Beyond Pshat)
“Rav Dovid Weiss* just bought an apartment in the building down the block,” my husband informed me one blustery autumn evening.
“The Rav Dovid Weiss from Yerushalayim?” I exclaimed. “Choshuve neighbors!” I’d heard both the Rav and the Rebbetzin speak several times, and I was thrilled that she’d be living nearby. Perhaps I’d develop a closer relationship with her.
“They have a lot of married kids living in the neighborhood, so they decided to relocate here,” my husband added.
So that Friday night, carrying a beautiful platter of cake, I went to welcome my new neighbors.
Avraham was 137 years old when Sarah passed away. He had selflessly performed acts of kindness his entire life. In fact, the Torah details every aspect of the hospitality that Avraham performed for the three angels in order to stress that his kindness was at such an advanced level.
Yet it was only the purchase of the burial location for his wife Sarah that was considered by Hashem to be a special act of kindness. Why?
I knocked softly and a married daughter opened the door. She welcomed me into the living room, which was full of children and grandchildren. And, sitting on a reclining chair in the place of honor, was Rebbetzin Weiss. I walked slowly toward her to wish her a Gut Shabbos when the realization hit me — Rebbetzin Weiss was not going to acknowledge my greeting. She was resplendent in a beautiful Shabbos outfit, her sheitel carefully coiffed, but her eyes were vacant. While her body may have moved to this new home, her mind had not followed.
I tried not letting my emotions show as I took her hand softly, wished her a Gut Shabbos, and then turned to introduce myself to her children and grandchildren.
When G-d created the world with the middah of kindness, He did so purely for the sake of doing kindness. There was no other reason to create a setting for mankind other than for them to be the beneficiaries of His kindness. Hashem’s kindness is not a means, but an end unto itself.
Despite the fact that Avraham had engaged in exceptional acts of kindness his entire life, his motive for doing so was to dispute his fellows’ pagan beliefs. Thus, Avraham’s acts of kindness were not purely for the sake of kindness, but rather a vehicle to espouse G-d’s existence.
When Avraham purchased the burial location for Sarah, it was an act of kindness that was done purely for Sarah, his wife. This was a replication of Hashem’s kindness for the sake of mankind. Therefore, it was only at this moment that Avraham was worthy of wearing Hashem’s cloak of Kindness.
This was the beginning of a close relationship —not with the Rebbetzin — but with her incredible children.
I often stopped by the Weiss apartment, and each time a different set of families would greet me warmly. Each time, I’d be impressed once again by the impeccable care and love the family lavished on Rebbetzin Weiss. Yet as the months progressed, I’d note with pain how the Rebbetzin was progressively drawing away from This World.
While her girls chattered and informed her of family events, an inner voice, one I didn’t like, whispered in my head: Why are they bothering?
And when they’d hold her hand or caress her cheek I wanted to scream: Did she even know them? Did she even recognize that these were her children, the ones she’d loved and nurtured? Did she know that they were the ones who were loving and nurturing her now?
I’d leave the apartment feeling the weight of these questions making me feel sick. What did she know? Who did she remember? And if the Rebbetzin could not connect to any of the gestures of love surrounding her, did they go to waste?
Yet to that question, I had a response. I didn’t know what the Rebbetzin knew, how much she appreciated, or was cognizant of. But her children knew exactly what they were doing and for whom. And that’s loving-kindness at its best.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 867)
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