In the course of the next few weeks’ Torah portions we learn much about the life and times of our amazing patriarch, Avraham.
An iconoclastic yet humble man, loved by G-d but incredibly challenged by Him, a man fiercely loyal to his family, a teacher of Godliness who had the audacity to debate with G-d, a paradigm of goodness and kindness who had mercy even on those diametrically opposed to his vision, one who forgave and prayed on behalf of his tormentors, and a fierce warrior to boot, Avraham changed the world like no one else.
But before he was all of the above, he was something else. Something far more basic.
In the middle of telling us of Avraham’s various trials and tribulations, the Torah tells us a seemingly mundane piece of information – that when he returned home from his journeys a wealthy man, Avraham was careful to stay at the same lodging places as he did when he first traveled away a poor one.
The classic Biblical commentary Rashi discusses two possibilities of why Avraham was careful to do so. One explanation is that on his original trip he was forced to take his lodgings on credit, and now that he was returning with the necessary funds, he immediately returned to pay his debts. Another possibility is that although Avraham could now afford to stay at a five-star hotel, he returned to his original economy lodgings out of a sense of loyalty and gratitude to his original hosts, and so that no one would think that there was something deficient in their service.
There is an important lesson here. Sometimes great and accomplished people, those who are out to change the world, forget to treat the “little people” around them with basic honesty and decency. They are too busy and important to worry about the minor details.
Not so our Patriarch Avraham. Yes, he was a visionary leader, the father of ethical monotheism. But he didn’t allow his great foresight to blind him to the needs and rights of everyone he interacted with.
More accurately, this very sensitivity was an integral part of his mission.
It’s our job to follow his example — dream big and accomplish great things — just don’t forget to “pay your innkeeper.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Oratz is the Rabbi and Director of the Monmouth Torah Links community. Shortly after receiving his semicha (rabbinic ordination) from Bais Medrash Govoha, the famed Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Oratz, along with his wife Toby and family, moved to Marlboro, NJ where they co-founded the MTL community in 2001. Aside for his “Devar on the Par” that he writes for MTL, his writings have also been published on Aish, Times of Israel, Seforim Blog, Hakira, and in various Rabbinic journals. Rabbi Oratz looks forward to continuing teaching Torah in a way that is timely and timeless, and sharing meaningful Jewish experiences with the amazing MTL community.