Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Vayera
To dedicate this lesson

To do charity and justice


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

חשוון תשע"ו
Until now Scripture does not explicitly say why G-d chose Abraham. In our Parsha, G-d explains for the first time why He specifically shares Sodom’s punishment with Abraham (18:19):

For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of G-d, doing charity and justice, in order that G-d might then bring upon Abraham that which He had spoken of him.

Abraham is characterized as going in "G-d’s way" and in the way of "charity and justice".

The Midrash writes surprising things on this verse (Leviticus Rabba (Margaliot) Parshat Bechukotai 36):

Rabbi Berachia and Rabbi Levi said in the name of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman:

Abraham was only saved from the fire due to the merit of Jacob. What is this compared to? To a person who was sentenced by the ruler to be burned. The ruler saw astrologically that the person was destined to have a daughter who would marry the king. The ruler said that it is worth saving him due to the merit of this future daughter who will marry the king.

This was the same in the case of Nimrod’s verdict to burn Abraham. G-d said that he must be saved due to the merit of Jacob. As it says: "Therefore, so said G-d, Who redeemed Abraham, to the House of Jacob" (Isaiah 29:22).

Our Rabbis said that Abraham himself was only created due toJacob’s merit, as it says: "For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of G-d, doing charity and justice" (Genesis 18:19), and there is only charity and justice by Jacob, as it says: "The justice and righteousness of Jacob, You have made" (Psalms 99:4).

Our Sages write that Abraham was saved from Sodom, and possibly even created, due to the merit of Jacob, since Jacob was destined to perform deeds of charity and justice. Seemingly, this greatly diminishes Abraham’s importance. The verse which seems to describe Abraham’s greatness, in fact, seems to describe Jacob’s greatness.

However, on the contrary, this is Abraham’s special greatness. Abraham was chosen not because of his own existence in the world, but rather because of his being a conduit to the founding of the Jewish people!

Abraham was selected not only for his special traits, but also because he will bequeath these qualities to his descendants. And not only because he will educate the Nation of Israel (he commands his children and his household after him) but because this is how it will actually be (they keep the way of G-d, doing charity and justice).

Abraham is the founder, the leader and the preeminent educator for the Jewish people. However, the Jewish people is the underlying reason for the selection of Abraham. Abraham was chosen because of the Divine knowledge that the Jewish people are destined to emanate from him.

Doing charity and justice – they characterize Abraham, but they also characterize and obligate us, his descendants.

It is possible that this is referring to fair justice, honesty and morals. And it is possible that it is talking about charity in the meaning of kindness, and about justice in the meaning of judgment. The integration of kindness and charity together with judgment and honesty.

There are two things in prayer for which we say the verb "love". The first is love of Israel:

May You not remove Your love from us forever.

Blessed are You, G-d, Who loves His nation Israel.

The second is love of charity and justice.

Blessed are You, G-d, the King Who loves righteousness and judgment.

G-d loves His Nation Israel, and G-d loves charity and justice. These two things are understood from the verse in our Parsha, in which G-d calls Abraham’s way "the way of G-d", and in which G-d explains his selection of the Nation of Israel as they go in the way of G-d, in the way of charity and justice.

Honesty and justice are the most important things in every place in the world. However, by the Nation of Israel they are the defining, core characteristics – they stand at the basis of our selection. We need to constantly strive for honesty and justice, to strive to the way of G-d, and to pray that just as G-d loves charity and justice, so will His love for us continue "May You not remove Your love from us forever"!
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