Parshas Chayei Soroh: The Power of Kindness

Parshas Chayei Soroh features the deaths of two individuals who, through their lives and actions, represented what Judaism is all about. Avrohom and Soroh showed devotion to G-d, readiness to perform his mitzvot, and chesed, loving kindness. This loving kindess lives on. Even after Soroh’s death, when Rivkah is chosen as Yitzchak’s wife, we are reminded of the importance of chesed. Rivkah Imeinu, the next matriarch, is drawing water, while Avrohom’s servant, who has been sent to find Yirzchak’s wife, prays. He prays for guidance- Hashem’s guidance- in finding a match. He asks for Yitzchak’s future wife, the woman destined to marry him, to show kindness to his camels as well as himself, and before he has even finished praying, his prayers are answered! Rivkah becomes engaged to Yitzchak and returns to him with Avrohom’s servant. Later on in the Parsha, Avrohom himself passes away, at the age of one hundred and seventy five years. He is buried next to Soroh.

Today, we live many generations on from Avrohom, and we live in a world where chesed- unconditional loving kindess- is becoming rarer and rarer. Division is rife. So is violence. Immorality. Selfishness.Every man for himself, is the prevailent viewpoint, and moments of hospitality, as shown by Avrohom and Rivkah Imeinu, are harder to come by than ever. It’s easy to bemoan this loss, to criticise the lack of kindness, withot actually doing anything about it. We say that the world is an unkind place, a place lacking in beauty- but when we see a person begging for money, we don’t give it to him- ”He’s probably not actually hungry”. When our brothers and sisters, our fellow Jews, have nowhere to spend shabbes, we don’t invite them- ”I’m awfully busy. I’m sure someone else will ask them”. People face challenges, mourn losses, and attempt to overcome challenges, but most of us sit by idly. One person’s good deed isn’t going to counter out all the darkness in the world, we wrongly say. So how do we go about changing things?

Firstly- one good deed can dispell all the sorrow and tragedy in the world. It really can. When we live in times of darkness, it’s our duty to create an increase in light. No excuses. Because that one good deed, that one good deed that you thought didn’t matter, could tip the scales. It could change the world. Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to see this. It’s hard to understand the power of that one good deed. And that doesn’t matter. Because really, it’s not just one good deed. It’s not just you, versus everyone else. Each good deed opens up the potential for another good deed, which in turn encourages yet another good deed- and thus, the cycle continues. Ben Azzai said, the reward for the mitzvah is the mitzvah. This has been interpreted in many ways. It can mean that simply doing the mitzvah and pleasing Hashem is so rewarding, that no material reward is needed. And it can also mean that the reward for doing a mitzvah, for performing a good deed, is that it leads to yet another good deed, which is the most beautiful reward.

I rarely bring personal anecdotes into my divrei Torah. I see no harm in doing so, and indeed, I have been inspired and moved by many personal divrei Torah, but it’s not something I usually do. This time, though, I felt unable to write about chesed without remembering an individual who left a massive impact on my life. The first time I met Brocha, I found her overwhelming. But in the following months, we became firm friends. I felt guilty, at first, because it seemed as if Brocha was always doing things for me, and I couldn’t reciprocate. Either I didn’t have the resources, or didn’t know how. But Brocha’s seemingly-everlasting, unconditional chesed was not in fact her greatest gift to me. The things she did for me, the sacrifices she made, the times she stood up for me- these were immense favours, but it was only after Brocha stopped being a part of my life that I discovered what she’d done for me.

I could no longer turn to Brocha for assistance, but instead, I continued her legacy. When I interacted with fellow Jews- and indeed non-Jews- I thought to myself, ”What would Brocha have done?”. I found myself extending as many invitations as I reasonably could, helping as many people as possible, making offers to those in need. If I couldn’t see Brocha, I wanted to be her. I wanted to invite her chesed into my life. At first, it felt wrong. I wondered what I was doing, contorting my schedule, acting in a way which didn’t seem quite like me. And often, I fell short of the mark. I still do. But I’m trying. And even if I’m unsatisfied with my attemps to spread chesed, most of the mitzvot I’ve performed recently have been performed after remembering what Brocha did for me. I realised I wanted to make the world a better place, and I wanted to encourage others to do the same. This is the power of a single mitzvah. And this is the power of chesed; the chesed we read about in this week’s Parsha.

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