Shiur for parashas Vayeira 5780
“Walk in My ways, and be blameless.”
– Genesis 17:1, sefaria.org
Abraham is acknowledged for his endless reservoir of chesed; yet, it is interesting to note, that the Torah does not specifically give any mention of his acts of kindness, until after he is circumcised at the age of ninety-nine. The bris millah (circumcision) represents the removal of imperfection. Abraham’s bris millah occurred after H’Shem spoke these words, “Walk in My ways, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1, sefaria.org). The following examples of chesed may be understood as only being possible, after his bris millah, whereby he was established as tammin (blameless, or perfect) (Nesivos Shalom: Vayeira).
The first noteworthy demonstration of chesed is when Abraham brings a meal prepared quickly to his three guests, who are really angels; he stands over them as a servant, while they are eating. This high degree of courtesy demonstrates his focus on orchas hanasim (hospitality). Next, he makes a concerted effort to persuade H’Shem to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, not only for the sake of any righteous souls who may be living there; he also hopes that the general populace would be given a chance to repent, according to H’Shem’s mercy, instead of being destroyed, according to the strict measure of justice.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moshe speaks of the circumcision of the heart (as mentioned in Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6). Chazal explain that this is a metaphor for the removal of any obstacles that may have the effect of a spiritual barrier between an individual and H’Shem. As Abraham’s circumcision complemented his walk with H’Shem, causing him to become tammin, so does the circumcision of the heart for B’nei Yisrael. This removal of the coarse veneer of our character is a necessary step forward in avodah (service), leading towards a closer connection with H’Shem.