The tent of Avraham Avinu was open to all four sides, and every human being was a welcome guest. Even Nimrod, the vicious king who hurled Avraham Avinu into a fiery furnace, came by for a visit and ended up staying for a month. When Nimrod prepared to leave, Avraham Avinu handed him a huge bill.
“I thought people get to eat and sleep here for free?” a stunned Nimrod said.
“For people, it is free,” Avraham Avinu replied. “But you consider yourself a deity and not a person… Furthermore, over the years, my guests have told me that ‘G-d will repay you double.’
“Since you think you are a deity, then you have to pay me double for all the meals I have served all the guests throughout the years….”
Left without a choice in the matter, Nimrod signed a statement acknowledging that he was a mere mortal. As he traveled in areas under Nimrod’s rule and spread awareness about the Ribbono shel Olam, Avraham Avinu showed the document to the residents, convincing them to stop worshiping Nimrod as an avodah zarah.
This week we learn about the visit to Avraham Avinu by three individuals who appeared to be humans, but were actually three of the best-known angels: Michoel, Gavriel and Refael.
Each angel had a specific mission. Michoel came to reveal the glad tidings of the forthcoming birth of Yitzchak. Refael came to heal Avraham, and then to save Lot from the destruction of Sedom. Gavriel’s mission was to destroy the evil city of Sedom and its sister cities in sin.
While the missions entrusted to Michoel and Refael necessarily brought them to Avraham Avinu, why was Gavriel with them? It would appear that he could have simply joined Refael later on in Sedom.
The Belzer Rav, zy”a, explained that Sedom, a bastion of evil and impurity, was a dangerous place for an angel to visit, even if he was on a mission of destruction. Therefore, the Ribbono shel Olam sent Gavriel to “eat” a meal at the house of Avraham Avinu. In the merit of basking in the presence of this great tzaddik, the malachim would be sufficiently fortified to go to Sedom!
Avraham Avinu represented the epitome of kindness and, l’havdil, the people of Sedom were the very symbol of cruelty. While Avraham Avinu dedicated his life to the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim and acts of chessed, in sadistic Sedom kindness was punishable by death. Why, then, did Avraham Avinu see fit to daven for these wicked evildoers, who fought against everything he stood for?
Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, explains that the chessed of Avraham Avinu was very different from that of the secular world, where those who preach kindness and compassion become brutal, even violent, enemies of those who fight against them.
The chessed of Avraham Avinu was based on the eternal truth of the Torah, and therefore he wanted the inhabitants of Sedom to live so they could improve their ways. He hoped that if there were indeed tzaddikim among them, over time their positive influence would have an effect.
This Shabbos is the 51st yahrtzeit of the Chazon Ish, zt”l, whose Torah teachings continue to have an enormous impact on all of Klal Yisrael and especially on the residents of Eretz Yisrael. This spiritual giant symbolized the crystal-clear truth of the Torah and taught us how our minds should be guided solely by this truth.
For instance, many assume that the reason behind the prohibition against Dayanim accepting bribes is the same logical explanation why, l’havdil, secular entities ban bribery: the Dayanim would be influenced to rule on behalf of that party. The Chazon Ish, however, taught that this prohibition should be understood as a chok, a decree that is beyond the grasp of mere mortals. For had the Torah not prohibited it, a Dayan would never have been affected by receipt of a gift from one of the two parties. After all, an individual (who is sufficiently knowledgeable in the relevant halachos) is permitted to rule on matters in which he has a clear interest, such a kashrus question about his own food. In addition, a Dayan is permitted to judge a din Torah even if one of the two parties is a personal friend. For the Torah trusted a Dayan that he will not allow any emotions to affect his ruling, and his verdict will be based only on the truth. But since the Torah declared that bribery will blind the eyes of the wise, bribery is the only sin that could cause a Dayan to lose the wisdom needed to rule appropriately.
We are currently in a year of Shemittah, a mitzvah for which the Chazon Ish did so much to clarify its complex halachos and strengthen its observance. May his infinite zechuyos protect the brave shomrei shemittah farmers who are moser nefesh for this sacred mitzvah, their supporters throughout the world, and all of Klal Yisrael.