Midot Hayom Day 7: Malchut in Chesed
Wherever Abraham dwelt he planted an eishel, but nowhere did it flourish except in the land of Canaan. By means of this eishel, Abraham knew who adhered to God and who to idolatry. For a person cleaved to God, the tree spread its
branches and provided pleasant shade, whereas in the presence of an idol worshipper the tree shrank within itself and its branches stood upright. Thus Abraham recognized [idol worshippers] and admonished them until they cleaved God. The tree received under its shade those who were ritually clean and did not receive those that were unclean. Thus Abraham recognized [unclean people] and purified them with water. Beneath that tree was a spring. When a person needing ritual immersion came, the waters immediately rose, as did the branches of the tree. That was a sign for Abraham that the person needed immediate immersion. If the spring dried up, Abraham knew that the person needed to observe seven days of purification. In this way the tree tested all people (Zohar 1:102b).
He planted an eishel in Beer-sheba (Genesis 21:33). He planted an orchard with all species of delicious fruits. According to one Sage, he built an inn, and he caused God’s name to be called by every passerby. How? After they ate and drank, they would want to bless Abraham. He would say to them, “Did you eat food that belongs to me? You ate that which is God’s. Thank, praise, and bless he who spoke and the world came into being” (Sotah 10b).
He planted an eishel in Beer-sheba (Genesis 21:33). [Eishel is a rearrangement of the letters of sha’al, “asked.”] R’ Yehudah said, “Ask for whatever you wish: figs, grapes, pomegranates . . .” R’ Nechemiah said: Eishel is an inn. Abraham said, “Ask for whatever you wish: bread, meat, wine, eggs . . .” (Bereishit Rabbah 54:4)
We tend to associate Chesed with caring for needs. I believe that these Midrashim are reminding us that Chesed is an important ingredient in all of our interactions. It is not just helping or giving. There should be Chesed in the way we speak with a spouse or a child. We can listen from habit and even respond. We can also listen and respond with Chesed; concern for the whole person. We can consider what they need at this moment. Does my child need extra attention?
When we learn to respond to the whole person in all our interactions, we are acting with Malchut in Chesed.
Consider the most important relationships in your life and what each individual needs in terms of quality of interaction. Do this each time you speak with one of these people today.