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Oct 22

Its a Bird!

In this week’s Parsha the Torah introduces us to our forefather Avraham and our matriarch Sarah. Avraham and Sarah were a team providing for the needs of others. Chesed was the mantra of their home. The Torah tells us, “He planted/established an Aishel tree in Be’er Sheva.” Our Sages explain that besides that Avraham planted a special tree; Aishel is also the acronym of Achila – food, Shechiva – lodging and Levaya – escorting. Avraham and Sarah established their dwelling as the address for anyone to come in and be fed, anyone could find a place to lodge, and when the guests were ready to leave they were respectfully escorted.

Our Sages tell us that there were four entrances to their tent; this was their way of welcoming guests from each direction. There was another aspect of sensitivity in this arrangement. It provided a degree of dignity for the guests. In case they would feel embarrassed due to an onlooker who had seen them entering and presumed they were in need of assistance, they were able to choose a different exit. Having different exits remedied this concern and ensured that everyone would feel comfortable and not hesitate from joining them.

Where did Avraham receive this example and become the paradigm of Chesed? It was not from his father who was steeped in idolatry and was initially at odds with Avraham’s monotheistic beliefs and teachings.

The Medrash tells us that it was a conversation that Avraham had with Malki Tzedek – Shem the son of Noach – that encouraged him to embrace Chesed.

Avraham asked him in what merit he survived the great flood? Shem answered, “It was due to the Tzdakah and Chesed we practiced on the Ark.” Avraham asked incredulously, “Were there poor people on the Ark? There were only eight people on the Ark! ” Shem replied, “It is the Chesed that we did towards the helpless animals in the ark! We did not close our eyes at night as we hurried to provide food for every single animal, beast and fowl at their specific time of feeding. One time we were late to feed the lion and he gnawed at my father Noach and injured him.”

Upon hearing this, Avraham said to himself, “If these men on the Ark survived by virtue of the Chesed that they showed toward ordinary animals, how much greater would my salvation be if I would act charitably towards all humanity, who are created in G-d’s image!”

Avraham immediately established the aforementioned inn to provide food and drink and company for travelers.

Taking the lesson to heart from a simple conversation, Avraham changed his destiny and forged the righteous path for his descendants forever!

G-d expressed His love for Avraham, “Because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem, doing charity and justice.”

Getting back to the awesome job Noach and his family had in feeding the animals, the Medrash relates that Noach noticed a bird sitting in a corner not demanding any food like the other animals. Noach communicated with it and it related that he saw how busy and overworked Noach was so he decided not to ask for food. Noach was touched by its caring and blessed the bird that it will live forever. The scriptural name of the bird is Chol and the Talmud calls it Orshina.

The Talmud relates that after Chava / Eve ate from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge she gave her husband and all the animals and fowl to eat from it as well. There was one bird that did not eat from it and did not become subject to the curse of death. It lives for 1000 years and then it incinerates and reemerges becoming alive again! This bird’s name is Chol.

It could very well be that the bird that was sensitive towards Noach was the same one that did not eat from the Tree of knowledge and was alive/reborn 1656 years later!