“And Hashem said to Avram after Lot had parted from him…” (Bereishis 13:14)
Rashi comments that the entire time the wicked Lot was with Avram, Hashem didn’t speak with him.
This is incredible when you consider the fact that Avraham obviously realized his relationship with Lot was preventing him from receiving Hashem’s word. Yet he continued traveling with Lot, never mentioning it.
A person like Avraham Avinu knows the value of the Shechinah’s presence; he knew the elevated levels he could reach if he would only distance himself from Lot. Nevertheless, Avraham didn’t sever ties with his nephew, unwilling to give up on the opportunity to do chesed for him as he accompanied him. (Rav Shach, M’Rosh Amanah)
My friend Shifra called as I was spot-treating white shirts. Relieved to have a break from battling mysterious purple stains on Yitzi’s shirt, I grabbed the receiver like a lifeline.
“Hi. What’s up? Did your girls enjoy that Kennes yesterday? My girls can’t stop talking about it. They really had an impressive lineup of inspirational speakers.”
“Actually, my daughters never got to the Kennes.” Shifra gave a half-laugh.
“But Gila was the one who bought tickets for my daughters! I thought she was one of the organizers.”
“She planned on going, but you’ll never believe where she ended up instead.”
I abandoned the laundry room completely to settle on the couch. This story seemed too good to share with purple phantoms.
We find similar behavior in Avraham when he was recovering from his bris milah and guests appeared. He begged leave from speaking with Hashem in order to greet his guests, even though they appeared to be Arabs. Hence, Chazal tell us (Shabbos 127a) that welcoming guests is greater than receiving the Shechinah.
“So Gila made up to meet with Rivka Greenstein — remember she got married last spring? They were going to take the bus to Yerushalayim together. But when they were getting on the bus, Rivka slipped and fell onto the sidewalk! Gila tried to help her up but Rivka was in a lot of pain. They called Hatzalah, who thought her arm was broken and said Rivka should go to the hospital.
“Meanwhile Rikva’s husband is in the States now visiting his parents. And she couldn’t reach her mother. So Gila ended up going in the ambulance with Rivka and then staying with her in the emergency room, going with her for X-rays and other tests. It turned out she broke her elbow! Baruch Hashem, she didn’t need surgery, but it was complicated to set it and Gila stayed with her the whole time.”
However, when a disagreement broke out between the shepherds of Lot and the shepherds of Avram, Avram knew that it had the potential to cause damage and harm bein adam l’chaveiro. Thus Avraham then said to Lot, “Separate yourself from me.”
The Gemara (Sotah 14a) reiterates this idea when it says that the Torah begins with gemilas chassadim and ends with gemilas chassadim. Because fostering love and kindness in relationships between friends and family are among the great matters of this world.
“You know what really impressed me, though,” Shifra continued thoughtfully, “When Gila finally got home that night, she was exhausted. Plus I felt so bad for her that she missed the whole evening of speeches she helped organize. But when I asked her if she was disappointed, she answered, ‘This is obviously what Hashem wanted me to do tonight; it’s totally fine.’”
I hung up the phone, awed at Shifra’s daughter’s equanimity and priorities.
Straightening my shoulders, I walked back into my laundry room with its perpetual piles of perplexing stains. Apparently, purple was my priority today.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 666)