In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion of Vayera, Avraham Avinu essentially single-handedly took care of his three guests “who happened to have” wandered by through the blazing hot sun of the desert. Why didn’t Avraham get help tending to their needs from his servants, especially if he was 99 years old, the third day from his bris, and possibly known as one of the most important people in his day?
The Torah when elucidating about this episode, saying: (?)“And to the cattle did Avraham run, and he took a calf, tender and good, and he gave it to the youth, and he hastened to prepare it. And he took butter and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and he placed [them] before them, and he was standing over them under the tree, and they ate” (Breishis 18:7, 8).
One of the lessons the Ralbag learns from here is that “it is befitting for one who does good to others to put in an effort to not overburden others with the goodness one is trying to give them, but rather one should pay his goodness in the most complete and nicest way for the receiver to accept. For this reason you find that Avraham upon seeing that these people were in a rush to go on their way and time had also come to eat, he therefore quickly prepared food and chose the most choicest food which would finish cooking in the least amount of time, that being a tender calf. It also wasn’t enough for one of his household members to choose what to eat, rather he himself chose because he wanted the choicest to be brought in front of them. He also first placed before them butter, and milk [with the bread (or matza)] so that they can start eating while waiting for their food to be prepared in order so that the delay won’t feel too burdensome.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Surely Avraham Avinu had highly proficient servants who could have taken care of those three guests, especially at that time. Eliezer, his head servant, was known to be a sage, Hagar was Pharaoh’s daughter, and all of Avraham’s devoted followers must have learned from Avraham how to emulate Hashem and act with pristine kindness. So why did Avraham Avinu take care of his guests essentially on his own?
It would seem that no matter how proficient his servants must have been, and no matter how old and in what state of health he was or what kind of stature he held, Avraham Avinu still felt that the most efficient way to take care of his guests was to act on his own, even if it meant putting in a bit more effort while making sure it was done to their liking. This is because as a meitiv, a giver of good, par excellence, he understood that it was his responsibility to figure out the needs and wants of his recipients and to provide them in the choicest manner, that being efficiency at its best.
The underlying message being minimization of delegating responsibility as much as one can produces the best results.
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder