| Parshah |

Corona Kindness

There are two types of baalei chesed

 

“And he lifted his eyes and saw, behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he bowed to the ground.” (Bereishis 18:2)

Avraham Aveinu’s well known as the paragon of a baal chesed. Yet it’s interesting to note that the Torah only alludes to Avraham’s chesed with a hint, stating “He planted an eshel tree.” (Bereishis 21:33): The acronym of eshel represents the specific chasadim Avraham did.

There’s only one incident of Avraham’s chesed that’s specifically detailed in the Torah  — hosting the three angels after his bris milah. What was so special about this act that merited specific mention? (Rav Yaakov Shlomo Weinberg, The Torah Connection)

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Coronavirus was raging. But every so often an anecdote or incident prompted by these extenuating circumstances set off a glow of inspiration that illuminated the gloomy atmosphere.

Our local cheder reopened in June after several months of lockdown. Most boys returned eagerly to schedule. But my neighbor decided not to send her son Yitzchak. Her elderly mother lived with them and was high risk, so Adina decided it was safer for Yitzchak to finish the school year at home.

Yitzchak called in daily and kept up with his shiurim. His friends sent him cards and little notes, but their lives were busy, more so when the rebbi announced a huge review contest. Every day they reviewed pages of Gemara and were quizzed on their learning. Depending on those quiz grades, each boy received fake money to be redeemed in a big carnival with prizes.

There are two types of baalei chesed. The first sees someone lacking parnassah or someone ill, and, his mercy aroused, he tries to help. However, if no apparent need for kindness presents itself, then such a person is content not to act.

However, the second kind of baal chesed has a constant burning desire to do chesed. If no one is in need, he feels pained and actively seeks opportunities for chesed.

It’s like the difference between a housewife and a cat. Both chase mice. But if all the mice are gone, the housewife rejoices. The cat, however, is not a happy camper; he seeks more mice.

The day of the carnival arrived. Each boy stood clutching his banknotes, ready to splurge, as the prizes were displayed ceremoniously around the playground.

Ten-year-old Simcha also had a fistful of “cash.” Yet instead of eagerly bouncing on his toes as he waited to redeem his loot, he approached the rebbi with a serious face. “What about Yitzchak? He won’t get any prizes!”

The rebbi nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, but what can I do? Yitzchak didn’t take the tests, so I can’t give him points.”

Simcha wouldn’t be deterred. “But what if Yitzchak did review and could take the tests? Would Rebbi give him the money?”

This was Avraham’s approach to chesed. Despite the pain from his bris and the scorching heat, he was disappointed at the lack of opportunities for chesed, and eagerly sought to host the malachim.

This second type of kindness characterizes Hashem’s behavior to us. Thus, this example of Avraham’s behavior, in which he pursued a G-dly type of chesed, is presented in detail in the Torah.

Simcha quickly called his friend. Yitzchak had reviewed daily, but he hadn’t bothered with the quizzes, assuming he couldn’t receive prizes. Simcha wouldn’t back down now. He spent the next 40 minutes on the phone quizzing Yitzchak, then filling in the answers on each of the 20 quizzes.

Finally, with a feeling of euphoria, Simcha ran to his rebbi. “Yitzchak gets 58 shekel!” he said gleefully. “Here are his answers.”

The rebbi was astounded at Simcha’s commitment. “But the carnival is almost over. Most of the prizes are taken,” he told him gently.

Simcha’s face fell.

“Wait.” The rebbi gestured toward the principal’s office. “I think there are some more prizes there.”

He walked into the office and came back with a huge box filled with the choicest prizes. “Here are Yitchak’s prizes — 58 shekels’ worth. But here’s yours.” He lifted the biggest prize out of the box.

“No one thought about Yitzchak because they were too busy thinking of their own rewards. But you were concerned for a friend, not your own pleasure. You won this contest, Simcha!”

Sometimes it’s the worst of times that brings out the best in us.

 

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 716)

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