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PARASHAS VAYEIRA - Ahavas and Kovod Ha'Brios

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Parashas Vayerah talks about the hachnasas orchim of Avraham Avinu and his mesirus nefesh after his bris milla.

The posuk depicting the way Avraham invites in the guests recounts, 'Vayorotz Likrosom Mipesach Ho'ohel, Vayishtachu Artzo, Vayomar, Adonoy Im Na Motzosi Chein Be'eiynecho…' Rashi explains that he was addressing the eldest amongst them and gives them the title of adnus, royalty, to invite them in, his manner suggesting that he is their servant. He may have known that they were malochim, but regardless, we find the degree of the middoh of humility demonstrated here by Avraham Avinu beyond the expected standard. It's excessive. We even know that they are suspected of serving avoda zara since later, Avraham gives them water to wash their feet. In that case, what is the pshat of this posuk?

There is something called Ahavas Habrios and Kovod Habrios. We are very distant from knowing the true meaning of respecting others. The Mishna in Avos appeals to everyone to be like the talmidim of Aharon. The criterion of this is to be oheiv es habrios, to love people. The word brios refers to all creations, not specifically yidden. The Be'ur Hagra says on the Mishna of ‘Ve'ohavto Lerei'acho Komocho’ that it's obvious that this mitzva refers to the yidden. Therefore, he learns from here that ‘oheiv es habrios’ should also refer to the yidden.

Avraham Avinu is the quintessential example of chessed and ahavas habrios. Sedom, the nation that is also mentioned in this week’s parasha, is the exact opposite. What can we attribute this difference to? What produces an Avraham Avinu and what produces a Sedom? Avraham accepted his guests with humility, respect, and dignity. Avraham was mechadeish the idea of escorting people home. Hachansas orchim is not only about inviting your guest inside and giving them food and drink, but also escorting them out the door. The Rambam even goes so far as to say that escorting a guest is the greatest cheilek in the mitzva of hachnasas orchim.

There is a story about a home that hosted many people. This home burnt down, and people asked why this house burnt down if it was used for so much chessed?

In the home of Avraham, there was achila, eating; shtia, drinking; and levia, escorting the people out of the tent. The house in our story only provided Achila and Shtia—spelling AISH, fire. If one only does two out of the three stages, that provokes fire. How could there be such a punishment after one takes care of people, providing food and drink, and merely does not escort them out of his house? Eating and drinking are about fulfilling a person's physical needs. Escorting someone goes beyond the physical, it’s about giving them respect, making them feel good. It indicates the derech eretz that one feels for that person. Avraham really respected the people who come to his tent: he bowed to them and called himself an eved. He gave them extra respect so that they would not feel inferior because they needed to be fed. It may seem excessive, but this way, his guests really felt good about themselves.

However, the people that Avraham invited in purportedly served avada zara. Was Avraham even allowed to speak to such people with this degree of respect, referring to one of them as ‘my master’? R’ Ovadia Yosef has an answer to this question in one of his teshuva sefarim, saying that before mattan Torah, there was no problem showing lavish expressions of respect to idol worshippers.

Avimelech committed a grave sin when he took Sara away. After he was punished, Avraham davened for him to be healed. The sefarim say that one may not daven for someone who sins, so why did Avraham daven for Avimelech? Hashem told Avimelech that Avraham would daven for him to make him better. When Avraham did indeed daven and Avimelech was healed, it showed Hashem's greatness, creating a Kiddush Hashem. Therefore, it was permitted.

Later in the parasha, we see that Avraham davened for Sedom. How could that be? Can one imagine davening for the Nazis, yemachshemam? The Ramban says that Hashem told Avraham to daven so that generations later, people wouldn't blame Avraham for not caring because he never davened for the people. Thus, his davening would prevent a Chilul Hashem.

The Balei HaTosfos seem to say differently. There was a problem for Avraham to daven alone at night ('Lo Yetzeh Yechidi Balaylo'), but you could argue that Avraham was a shliach mitzva, so this issue would not apply. However, from the fact that Avraham davened in the morning, we learn that he was not called a shliach mitzva, since Hashem did not want Avraham to daven 'rina utefila'. The loshon ‘rina’ could mean that Hashem wanted him to try and daven, but He knew that the tefilos wouldn't help.

From this instance, we can derive the rule that a yid should not daven for a goy unless it will prevent a fight, make a Kiddush Hashem, or cause the goy to do teshuva.

Shlomo Hamelech requested that all the nations be able to come and daven in the Beis Hamikdash. This shows that the goyim deserve tefila. In that case, what is the difference between a goy davening for himself and a yid davening for a goy? In the Sefer Habris, written by a talmid chochom in Vilna, there's a chiddush that ‘Ve'ohavto Lerei'acho Komocho’ also applies to a goy: Usually, the Gemara specifies when a mitzva is only relevant for yidden, achicho ve'lo akum. Here, the Gemara does not expressly exclude this rule applying to a goy.

R’ Chaim Vital in Sharei Kedusha also says that ‘oheiv es habrios’ means to love even goyim. The Gemara says, ‘A person has to be kind, soft, and in peace with his brothers, relatives, and with every person, even the goy in the market.’ This shows that ‘Ve'ohavto Lerei'acho Komocho’ applies even to a goy. Many Rabbanim exemplified this posuk.

In the Sefer Migdal Oiz, it says clearly that the mitzva ‘Ve'ohavto Lerei'acho Komocho’ is only for a yid. But it also says that, notwithstanding the chiyuv of the mitzva, a person is only complete and healthy when they feel honest love for every person: if you don’t really love every person, you cannot properly love a yid. He continues by saying that we should love even those who serve avoda zara—hating their actions but loving them, even davening for them that Hashem should show them the right way.

As one goes through the parasha, you can see the mindset of Avraham Avinu: chessed, ahavas habrios, kovod habrios and hachno'o. He thoroughly respected others because he knew that’s what was needed.

In the sefarim of the Chafetz Chaim, it does not say that the issur of loshon hora applies to goyim. However, in the Misrash Rabba on Devarim it says that one may not speak loshon hora about goyim since it will cause you to speak ill about yidden as well. It may be because the habit will stick, or because it will cause a more negative outlook in life.

When President John F. Kennedy died, the yidden were unsure of how to react to his death. At the time, R’ Yaakov told the olom that one should show feelings of pain and mourning in order not to train oneself to be an achzor.

We are trained to feel that we are brothers in Klal Yisroel, but what about for the outside world, the goyim? The Tomer Devora says kovod habrios is for all the brios, even the reshoim. We must view each other as brothers until we get into the habit of loving all people. The end result is that a person who does this will be healed from gaivoh and enter the gates of humility. Lack of kovod habrios comes from gaivoh. Avraham calls himself an eved to the Yishma'eylim. He said when davening for Sedom, ‘Ve'anoychi Ofor Va'eyfer.’ He was sincerely humble and therefore had love and kovod for all brios—even those who were against him.

What was the sin of Sedom, what was their middoh? In Yechezkel, it says that their sin was gaivoh. They had lots of money and were haughty; they never cared for people.

My Zeida posed a question: Three malochim came to visit Avraham, each with their own mission. Gavriel's mission was to destroy Sedom. Why did he stop at Avraham’s house and not go straight to Sedom?

Hashem was showing the malochim that the corrupt way of life in Sedom was not the norm for society. After seeing the potential of humankind in the ideal chessed reality at Avraham's house, Gavriel could go and destroy Sedom. Avraham and Sedom are two polar opposites: hochno'a versus gaivoh.

The more humility a person has, the more they love people; the more kovod and ahavas habrios they feel, the more complete they are as a person.

"I will take a morsel of bread that you may sustain yourself and approvals you

may be on your way" (Bereishis 18:5)

My Grandfather Zt”l asked is this proper etiquette and hospitality to offer someone "to eat and go". For someone like Avraham Avinu who was credited and famed for his great "Hachnasas Orchim" this statement sounds quite cold and uninviting. If someone wants to extend a true invitation, he usually requests that one stay and eat, relaxed, taking all the time he needs, and wants. One does not say you eat and then leave and expect anyone to take up the invitation.

My Grandfather Zt”L answered that quite the contrary this statement was actually a result of Avraham Avinu ------ great Hachnasas Orchim. For sometimes it is the Oreach — guest who is in a hurry and needs to leave quickly to be on his way and it is the Bal Habayis — who is looking for company or at least the courtesy and Hakaras HaTov of his guest to stay a while and converse with Him. If one just comes eat and leaves the Bal Habayis may feel "used" as if to say I only needed you to eat, your company means nothing to me and that's why I left right after I finished eating. A true Machnis Oreach one who truly and selflessly invites Oreach for their sake and wellbeing forgoes all the courtesies involved and is not waiting for the proper Hakaras HaTov alluded to him. Rather he thinks and contemplated only on the needs and necessities of the °reach thus Avraham Avinu was the master Machnis Oreach extended his invitation with the notification that if it pleases then and is of their need to just eat and go they are free to do so Avraham Avinu understood that people who are passing and are invited to eat maybe en route somewhere and are -- - and need to get there and

therefore, there maybe no time or convenience to "spend time" schmoozing and showing proper etiquette.

One must learn to invite guests for their sake not for themselves. Many have a liking to have guests for it is in the spirit and style of the Shabbos table and thought this is somewhat recommendable it is still a far cry from true Hachnasas Orchim for your invitation is to please you more than it is to please them. One should invite guests to please and benefit the guests. Remember guests are not Noy Hashuichan.... ornament to decorate and enhance your Shabbos table like noy sukha are meant to enhance the sukah.....

My Grandfather zt”l who was called the "Gaon in chesed" mastered and practiced the above concept completely. His Hachnasas Orchim was legendary. He would put all his mind and effort to satisfy and please his guests always contemplating their true needs and pleasures and pleasing them before his own.

I remember two incidents by My Grandfather's shabbos table which strongly highlighted this idea. First, my Grandfather never sang Shalom Aleichem before the meal. Guests were the norm at his home and table and he would say in the name of his Rebbe, the sainted Chafetz Chaim zt”l, "Friday night the guest are hungry, the malachim aren't so the Malachim could wait". I also recall vividly from my grandfather's Shabbos table the tremendous respect and dignity allotted to the guests and how much emphasis and importance was place on making sure they were happy and content. The menu was always prepared by my Grandmother exactly tailored made to the particular and individual needs and pleasures of each individual guest. "Oh, this person likes fish made a certain way km- a little more (ex: salty, a little more sweet), this one likes chicken, this one likes meat, etc...). The guests were not given to sit at the end of the table for then they would feel as "chesed cases" and needy guests. But rather they were placed to sit between family members thus they would sense and view themselves as "belonging" and as a part of the family. So too, the talk of the table was geared to include and to be of interest to the guests and being that they were the needy common folk. The level and content of the conversation was often quite simple.

Although this was the practice of my Grandfather, based on what he saw and learned from his Rebbe, the Chafetz Chaim, one has to know when and where to put these "hanhagos" into practice. For when one has a house of his children this may not be the correct method, for as children grow the attention of their father is of great importance and there is no more important time for this then the Shabbos or Yom Toy table. Any diversion of this attention directed at outsiders and guests may be detrimental. Remember, your first responsibility is your children and home and if your guest will compromise your attention from the children, then maybe you are sacrificing "more than required for the sake of the mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim." Usually a good balance could be found where one is Machnis Oreach but does not overdo it to the extent that it is on the cheshbon of one's family and their growth. On the contrary, showing your children Hachnasas Orchim is in itself an important lesson in chinuch For what they see in the home they will usually emulate. A child who sees chesed by his parents is probably going to be a Baal Chesed but not if he resents all the chesed his parents did. For in the process they ignored him and his siblings.

My Father told me the following story which beautifully illustrates and teaches perfectly what it means to think of the Guests comfort. Making sure they feel wanted and part of the family. There was a known Yid who in Europe was a big Talmid Chacham but had a nervous breakdown during the War. He never got married and had no home and so he would invite himself to the homes of people. Many turned him down for he lacked good hygiene. One Shabbos he invited himself to the home of my grandfather. My grandfather did not hesitate and happily and warmly welcomed him. When he entered there was an unpleasant odor. Immediately, my Grandfather knew what to do. Softly, he told him "R' M.A. I have a new set of undergarments, shirt, and pants. Here take them, I bought them for you as a gift for coming to my house for Shabbos." Then he went to his clothing closet and pulled out his own clothes and gave it to the person. However, this did not completely remove his odor and by the meal no one was able to sit next to him and they began to distance themselves from where he was sitting. Seeing this, my Grandfather feared that this Yid would get insulted or get the feeling that he was not welcomed. Quickly, my Grandfather asked him to sit at the head of the table together with him in close proximity, remarking "You are such an honorable guest; it is befitting you should be sitting at the head of the table."

This is true Hachnasas Orchim!'

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