At the beginning of this week's parsha, Parshat Vayera, Perek 18, the Torah discusses the episode of the three guests who are invited into Avraham and Sarah's home. The Torah describes Avraham, sitting by the opening of his tent at the hottest point of the day:
.וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה', בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא; וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח-הָאֹהֶל, כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם וַיִּשָּׂא עֵינָיו, וַיַּרְא, וְהִנֵּה שְׁלֹשָׁה אֲנָשִׁים, נִצָּבִים עָלָיו; וַיַּרְא, .וַיָּרָץ לִקְרָאתָם מִפֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל, וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אָרְצָה .וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנָי, אִם-נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ--אַל-נָא תַעֲבֹר, מֵעַל עַבְדֶּךָ.
Hashem appeared to Avraham in Elonei Mamre. He was sitting in the opening of the tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, three men stood over against him; and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed down to the earth. and said: 'My lord, if now I have found favor in your eyes, do not pass by. Please to not pass from your servant.
Avraham, a wealthy, elderly man. A person recovering after his Brit Milah, was sitting in the opening of his tents, to welcome in guests. Rashi emphasizes that Avraham was looking for people whom he could feed and give lodging to. The midrash speaks about the extreme hot conditions brought by Hashem to lessen the chance that people would travel. In this way, Avraham would not have to entertain guests. But, Avraham, did not slow down. He sat outside his tent in the hopes for the opportunity to welcome people into his home.
Rav Mordechai Gifter (Pirkei Torah) explains Rashi's interpretation of Avraham's kindness, his chesed, in the following way: Rashi appreciates that Avraham's chesed extends beyond the need of the recipient. Often, we think about acts of chesed as opportunities to perform kindness for others as the need clearly arises. Yet, Avraham's kindness, in the way Rashi describes it, was not only to be performed but pursued. Often, we wait to perform acts of chesed or respond generously when responding to a situation. We learn from Avraham, says Rav Gifter, that we must open our eyes and look for those opportunities of kindness, rather than take advantage of them when they are brought to our attention.
As a side point, perhaps it was understandable that this type of chesed emerges from Avraham. Avraham is the individual who recognizes God as ultimate Creator in our Universe. Before creation, God is alone. There is no need for chesed. When the Tehilim teach us Olam Chesed Y'baneh, that the world was created on a foundation of Chesed, it is that chesed that we, as creations of Hashem are to seek out and find. Where can acts of kindness surface in our world? Avraham's contribution of monotheism to our world, brought with that the advocacy for kindness toward others. Avraham appreciates the world Hashem created and the commitment to the pursuit of God and with that the elevation of kindness to be not merely an opportunity to partake in, but, the expending of energy to incorporate in one's existence. He saw that as a major value to maintain in God's world. By honoring God's creations in this way, we give glory to God. The pursuit is what reminds us that there is a need to actively search for places and situations where kindness is needed or can improve another's quality of life, while simultaneously emphasizing that it is a gift in our world to care for the other and continue to honor this core value.