When unexpected guests arrive at Abraham’s tent, the Torah repeatedly emphasizes his hurry to serve them: “He ran to greet them… Abraham rushed to the tent… he said, ‘Hurry!’… Abraham ran to the cattle…” This is the Torah’s description of a 99-year-old man, recovering from a circumcision surgery he performed on himself, in the heat of the day! The opportunity to welcome guests was so dear to him, that he easily overcame his own pain and discomfort.
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1838-1933), may have been the leading Jewish legal authority for all of Europe, but he was very humble, and would prioritize the needs of his Shabbos guests. If he sensed that they were hungry, he would hurry home and begin the meal as quickly as possible, even delaying the traditional song welcoming the Shabbos angels, “Shalom Aleichem,” until after the meal had started. He would often say, “The angels can wait a little, but the hungry guests have to eat and can’t wait!”
When we help others, there is a natural tendency to want to do so on our terms. It’s important to keep our “eye on the ball” and remind ourselves that we’re helping because someone else needs help — not for our own feelings of fulfillment. While personal fulfillment is a great motivational tool, it should not define the act of kindness, and cause the recipient to suffer in order to satisfy our own ego.
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org