Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Middah of Avraham Avinu

If you ask most people what is the middah of Avraham Avinu without a doubt the majority would answer the middah of chesed. This is derived primarily from the story of hachnasas orchim in the beginning of Parshas VaYera and other midrashic sources that surround this episode. It is also derived from the pasuk in Micah 7:20 Titein emes l'yaakov chesed l'avrohom. The idea is that the midah of Chesed belongs to Avraham, Gevurah to Yitzchak, and Emes to Yaakov. It pays to note, however, that this is not the simple explanation of the passuk. The passuk is actually referring to the fact that Hashem should keep his promise to the Avos and return us to the land of Israel. As the Radak there explains, chesed refers to the fact that Hashem promised us the land as an act of kindness. Emes refers the the fact that he will make good on the promise to the fathers and deliver to the sons. Nevertheless, the Ramban (see Bereishis 17:22 and 31:42) offers the Kabbalistic interperetation that these middos belong to the avos - chesed being Avraham's middah. This is the source of the many Divrei Torah surrounding Avraham Avinu and the middah of Chesed.

However, if one were to ask the Rambam, what would he say is the middah of Avraham? The Rambam spells out the answer directly in two places. In Mitzvas Aseh 3, in the mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem, the Rambam says that Avraham Avinu was the paradigm of Ahavas Hashem. He bases this on two sources. First, the Navi says in Yeshaya (also the Haftorah of Parshas Lech Lecha) Avraham Ohavi. The Rambam takes this as a proof that Avraham Avinu had reached the high level of Ahavas Hashem. The Rambam then goes on to say a mashal. When one person loves another person they will do all in their power to get others to love that person. So too, Avraham Avinu tried to convince all those around him to love Hashem. As the pasuk says V'es hanefesh asher asu b'charan - that Avraham Avinu turned thousands of hearts and mind away from Avodah Zarah and towards the service of the Creator.

The Rambam then repeats this yesod in Hilchos Teshuva at the beginning of Perek 10 where he says that the ideal service of Hashem is Ahavas Hashem - the level of Avraham Avinu.

Thus, it seems clear that if one were to ask the Rambam what is the middah of Avraham Avinu, the Rambam would respond that Avraham Avinu had reached the lofty level of Ahavas Hashem.