Posted on March 23, 2011
by Marissa Shragg, EMTZA, 5764
Most Torah portions discuss one main theme, a certain mitzvah or an event. There are few which discuss a variety of these: Va-Yera is one of the few portions which covers many of these concepts. The first is the birth and near-sacrifice of Isaac, the second is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the third is the story of Hagar and Ishmael. The one story, out of the three, which relates most to our society today is, actually, the preface to the story of Isaac; the story of Abraham, Sarah and the strangers.
Sarah and Abraham were both very old when they found out that they would conceive and bear a child. It was a year after the couple had welcomed three apparent strangers into their tent. It is said that one of these strangers was actually G-d. It was the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah which helped Him to decide to help the couple have a child. When Abraham saw the strangers approaching, he quickly invited them in, to sit down, and asked them to soak their feet in water: Sarah dropped everything that she was doing, as well, and began to cook a feast for the three men. These actions portray the mitzvah of Hakh’nasat or’him, or hospitality. This is one of the most highly valued mitzvot within the entire Torah.
It is so interesting, how our society has changed so drastically over the centuries. We still put a high value on donating food, blood or tzdakah to different organizations, but this contributing is not universal. Much of society relies on soup kitchens to feed the hungry, shelters to give a home, and even “welcome wagons” to greet new arrivals. Although the problems are on their way to being managed, everything is anonymous. The thought is there, but I think that this is societies way of “making the mitzvot work for them”. Instead, we should try to go “out of our way”, and we should reach out to a new family within the community – we should make them feel like they belong; that is, truly feel accepted – people remember a friendly face, a smile, and compassion more than they do a tray of brownies, or a casserole.
Instead of waiting for the hungry to be fed at soup kitchens, donate food and go donate your time to help serve them. In place of letting the homeless stay on the streets, or in crowded shelters, volunteer, with an organization, to help build homes for families who can’t afford to buy a place to live.
Donated clothes can keep a person warm. Food can keep someone from being hungry. A house can make someone feel safe. But, only reaching out with love and compassion can truly touch a person’s heart. “Give a man a fish, and he will be fed: Teach a man how to fish, and he will never go hungry.”