Prologue: He sat at the opening of the tent but he wanted to get up.
Rashi comments that there was a major debate between Hashem and Avraham on the third day after Avrohom’s Bris. Hashem wanted Avraham to sit and rest. Avraham felt that in the presence of the Shechina it would be improper to sit down. He requested to stand. Rashi notes that Hashem offered the clinching argument: “You sit so that your future generations will learn that even when I am present at a Din Torah, they need to sit as well.
But what would lead the future generations to compare Avraham’s visit at the front of a tent to the situation of a Din Torah? Where was the indication of “Din” (justice) in Avraham’s interaction with Hashem?
Maran HaGadol HaRav Schachter Shlita used to quote HaGaon Harav Soloveitchik Zatzal who noted that Avraham set the tone for Din Torah by comparison. For the Talmud (Yoma 35b) notes that Hillel sets the responsibilities (“is Michayav”) the poor, Rav Elazar Ben Charsom sets the responsibilities on the wealthy and Yosef on the wicked. For in each of these cases, the individual was in the depth of their particular group. Notwithstanding the challenge that life placed on them – either the challenge of poverty or of wealth or of desire – each one managed to spend their lives dedicated to the study and perpetuation of Torah and Torah life.
Avraham too, said Rav Soloveitchik brings the burden of responsibility to the people of Sodom. Lest one argue that the place was so evil, no one could live in the area and live and perpetuate Torah life, Avraham was the example that he would need to respond to. This was the Din of Avraham.
This week we lost two more great ones. HaRav Dov Schwartzman ztl passed on Monday and Maran HaGaon HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl passed on Tuesday. Rav Schwartzman lived a difficult life that necessitated starting over 3 times. He never let his Torah lifestyle alone. He serves as an image to us that in the face of social turmoil, we can never turn away from Hashem or his Torah and that if we stick to it, we ultimately will succeed. His children and grandchildren lead major Torah institutions including Lakewood and Yirushalayim Yeshivos until today.
Maran HaGaon HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl. struck a closer cord to home. A graduate of Ida Crown Academy, where he was class president and played on the baseball team, he grew to become the Rosh Yeshiva of the world’s largest Yeshiva, Mir. He exuded love of Am Yisroel. He loved to meet people and encourage them in learning and living a Jewish life. He strove to know all 5000+ students and to relate to them and the alumni as if he were speaking to his own grandchildren. He placed being a “mentch” above all other values. Whether it was walking fellow (female) students home in High School in order to guarantee their safety or travelling around the world for his Talmidim despite crushing Parkinson’s Disease that plagued him for the last 35 years of his life, Rav Nosson Tzvi was the epitome of what we can be, and the standards we are to be held accountable to. Maran HaRav Schachter shlita charged us with the ultimate responsibility based on the life of Rav Nosson Tzvi – to become Marbetzei Torah – those who expand Torah’s influence world-wide and in our homes especially – to the best of our ability.
Yehe Zichram Baruch
Leaving Guests: The obligation of Levaya
The Talmud (Sotah 46b) notes the extent that one must go to in order to fulfill the obligation of Hachnasat Orchim. Not only are we required to feed and dine the guests, we are told to send them on their way with escort. The neglect of such a Mitzva is akin to bloodshed. The Zohar (VaYeira) adds that one enjoins the Shechina when he escorts his guests.
Rambam (Hil. Avel 14:2) accords more status to this escort (Levaya) than to the rest of the aspects of Hachnasat Orchim. In fact, in his opinion it seems as if the Levaya eclipses the rest of the Mitzva. According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Penenei Torah, Berashis) the reason is clear: By escorting one’s guests, s/he conveys a sense that they have not been a burden to you.
How then, did it fall into such disarray?
The Sma (Choshen Mishpat 426:2) notes that the requirement of Levaya is 4 amos. Beyond that it is an issue of Kavod often waved today. The Chofetz Chaim (Likkutei Halachos, sotah) notes that Levaya is obfuscated today by the adequate signage (and GPS?) of today. If a guest would still be nervous today, we would need to escort him.
The Aruch HaShulchan (Choshen Mishpat 426:2) noted that upon advent of mass transportation no Levaya was necessary since people didn’t travel alone.
Still, it seems that Levaya may be an independent Mitzva from Hachnasas Orchim. The Talmud (Sotah 47a)clearly sees it so. Shut B’Tzel HaChochma (36) notes that if you give directions to one who is lost and escort him to safety or to safe orientation, this is part of the Mitzva of Levaya.
Rav Daniel Feldman Shlita (Divine Footsteps, p. 157) notes that the message of Avraham and his hospitality, the backdrop of our Hachnasas Orchin, reverberates throughout the generations. It is the means wherein, we have learned how to reflect in our actions, Avraham’s trademark traits of kindness, sensitivity and compassion.