Midreshet Amit


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Is Chesed Supposed to be Convenient?

By: Annabelle Avital and Hailey Rubenstein

Aware of his old age, Avraham Avinu decides to find a wife for Yitzchak, his son. He sends Eliezer his slave and tells him to find a woman among the daughters of Aram Naharayim. Why didn't Avraham simply ask him to find his son a wife among the women of Canaan? We later find out that when Eliezer asked Rivkah if she could host him, his men, and the camels, she not only said yes but she offered them an extended stay. This demonstrates how Avraham wanted a woman for his son from his birthplace, because they displayed fine character traits and beliefs.

Let us examine the Gemara in Bava Metzia (86b): “Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: Whatever Avraham did for the angels himself, The Holy one, blessed be He did for his (Avraham's) children Himself. But whatever Avraham did (only) through a messenger, The Holy one, blessed be He (likewise) did for his children (only) through a messenger.” Avraham's slave, Eliezer, has seen it firsthand that in order for a chesed to be done properly, a person must complete it with his own two hands, and when it is done through a messenger, Hashem only repays the act through a messenger. Similarly, chesed should be done on our own volition as well as to the fullest capacity, as opposed to when it best suits us or is of the most convenience.

Such a distinction is illustrated early in Eliezer’s encounter with Rivka. There is a relatively unnoticeable yet critical differentiation in the manner Rivka gave water to Eliezer and how she gave water to his camels. This distinction shows an influential idea in regards to doing acts of kindness. When Rivka gave water to Eliezer, it was she who chose when to quit giving him water. At the point when she felt that he had sufficient water, she then finished giving him water. However, when Rivka gave water to his camels, she gave them water until satiation. This is telling of the importance of doing acts of kindness to the fullest, as Rivka is principally remembered for her above and beyond treatment of Eliezer's camels, but not for Eliezer.

This may have to do with the idea that when we proactively do a thoughtful gesture for somebody, we typically calculate our acts of chesed in terms of how much of our energy it consumes and how much of our time it takes, rarely is it calculated in terms of the benefactor of our acts of chesed. Perhaps if more people measured such acts more like Rivka did, the world would be a better place. Of course, finding a balance between personal health and chesed is important, but we should at least be cognizant of the natural human tendency to do what is needed from people in need and not what is desired from others in need.