Vayera – The Ultimate Weapon: Kindness

Yishmael is 16 years old. “Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Avraham, mocking. (The Ramban says he was making fun of Yitzhak. Rashi mentions he was actually shooting arrows in Yitzhak’s direction because he was quarreling over Avraham’s inheritance.) So she said to Avraham, ‘Drive out this maidservant with her son, for the son of that maidservant should not inherit with my son, with Yitzhak!’ The matter greatly distressed Avraham regarding his son. So Hashem said to Avraham, ‘Be not destressed over the youth or your maidservant: Whatever Sarah tells you, heed her voice, since through Yitzhak will offspring be considered yours. But the son of the maidservant as well will I make into a nation for he is your offspring.’ So Avraham awoke in the morning, took bread, and a flask of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them on her shoulder along with the boy, and sent her off. She departed, and strayed in the desert of Be’er Sheva” (Breishis 21:9-14).
The Rabbeinu Bachye (verse 14) commenting on Avraham getting up early and giving them bread and water says: “He should have given her silver, gold and camels to carry them according to the wealth Avrhaham had, for he had prayed for his son Yishmael to live with him but since Sarah told him to banish him and his mother, and Hashem told Avraham that anything Sarah said you shall listen to, therefore without a choice he listened to Sarah and banished him [Yishmael] and his mother with bread and water. This is the explanation of the Ramban z”tl. It would seem obvious to say that the reason why he banished him with just bread and water is because [Avraham] had something else in mind. This was that Avraham saw through prophesy that in the future his children will be persecuted under the hand of Yishmael and he will hate them with great hatred, for there is no other nation in the world who hates the Jews like the offspring of Yishmael. So therefore Avraham acted with him as one should act with a person who hates you, and he gave him bread and water, just as the verse in Mishlei (Proverbs 25:21) writes, ‘If the one who hates you is starving give him bread to eat and if he is thirsty give him water.’” (Click here for Hebrew text)The Ralbag in Mishlei explains that one should not stop from being gracious to [those that hate you] to feed him bread if he is hungry and give him water if he is thirsty for this is a very praiseworthy quality, to be nice to all people, whether they love you or hate you. For if he harden your heart, how will you be good to him if he is bad to you? In truth if you act kindly towards him using your positive attributes, this is the ultimate revenge upon him. “For they are hot coals being poured over his head and Hashem will pay you back” (verse 22). The Ralbag goes on to explain that [being nice to him] is in fact hard on him, like pouring hot coals over his head to burn him, because of the amount of embarrassment he has over the goodness he accepts from you in place of the bad he gives you. Ultimately, Hashem will reward you for the kindness you treat him. (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

Acts of love and kindness are one of the pillars that keep the world going. Even though Hashem guarantees a reward for acting kindly, and it is  in and of itself a form of revenge on those who hate you, how is it actually possible to feel and act kindly to them? Particularly if those who hate you seem to be eternal enemies who will do anything to wipe you off the face of the earth, whether it be suicide bombings, stabbings, stone throwing, ruthless torture, or any  other form of coldblooded murder?Granted, there is a mitzvah to defend one self and to use any means necessary to prevent loss of innocent life; however, one still cannot lose his own positive traits and must always act with kindness. No matter who is starving or thirsty you must provide, even if it is an enemy that wants you and your people wiped off the face of the earth. This does not mean, however, that one should be overly kind to those that hate you. Avraham and the verse in Mishlei are teaching us that there must be a balance. Showering one’s enemy with love and kindness won’t get them to change. All the money in the world won’t make a difference. But to at least give them bread and water if they are starving and possibly dying of thirst is still a great kindness, as well as being a slap in the face of their evil demeanor.

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