Thursday, November 1, 2012

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

"I will bring bread, and you will feast your hearts and then continue on your way.' And they said, 'Yes, we will do as you said" -- Genesis 18:5.

Our Torah portion this week (Bereishis [Genesis]18:1-22:24) begins with the famous narrative of the three angels visiting the Patriarch Abraham. Unbeknownst to him, the three nomadic passersby whom he had chased down and was now offering to feed, were angels in human disguise. Their mission was to inform Abraham and Sarah that in precisely one year's time barren and aged Sarah would miraculously give birth to a child. They had no nutritional needs and the gourmet tongue à la mustard that Abraham rushed to prepare for them was as appealing to them as sand à la mustard. Whether or not they partook of this meal would not affect the outcome of their mission one iota.

So why did they accept the invitation? Why make an elderly man recuperating from a painful circumcision run around in a pointless pursuit? They didn't even attempt a polite "no, thank you, sir"! Would it not have been wiser and more "angelic" to politely decline Abraham's kind overture?

For people who, like Abraham, are naturally chesed (kindness) oriented -- giving is much easier, and infinitely more satisfying than receiving. This preference can stem from a variety of reasons, depending on the circumstances of the gift.

The act of giving allows the benefactor to feel important, valuable and productive -- both as a person in general, and also in the context of a particular relationship. Giving is also the ultimate expression of one's humanness, the ability to transcend one's own needs and care for another. And even on a selfish level, giving earns the giver respect and admiration.

As nice as it is to be given gifts, receiving often has strings attached. The recipient may not be expected to reciprocate in kind (due to the nature of the relationship or the recipient's means) but recompense in terms of gratitude and a feeling of indebtedness is certainly expected -- and may well be the giver's primary motive. Furthermore, a gift can sometimes be construed as a subtle attack on the beneficiary's self-sufficiency.

The above does not apply only to large and valuable gifts. Even our small gifts and kind gestures provide satisfaction for us

We hesitate to allow a friend to run an errand for us -- despite her generous offer and the fact that she is already in the store. Sometimes, we are even unwilling to accept advice ("Hmmm, that's a good idea but just won't work for me because... Thanks anyways!").

The lesson we can learn from the angels is: allow others to give gifts -- even if it makes us a bit uncomfortable, even if we'd rather be on the giving end.

Take it even if you don't need it. If it makes it easier for you, consider it giving instead of taking.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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