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Thought for the Day: Mussar from the Avos

I know this seems out of the blue and out of place, but I was struck today by the Ramban's description of how Avraham Avinu took care of the malachim that came to him on the third day after his (self-administered!) mila.  I am certainly no expert on Ramban, but this Ramban had a different character than what I have learned before.  There way he described the whole scene conveyed a sense of awe and inspiration by the greatness of our ancestor.

Avraham Avinu ran to ask the three (as far as he new) men to stop and rest a bit while he got them something to refresh and rejuvenate them.  Avraham Avinu, notes the Ramban, recognized the three were busy and intent on fulfilling their mission.  Avraham Avinu, therefore, asked them only rest on the tree and wait for a small repast; something he knew would be appreciated and could be fit into their schedule.  Avraham then ran to personally select the calves for his guests.  The Ramban says that he went "l'vaker" (not "livchor") the animals.  The word "bikur" really means "to assess the situation and choose the best course of action".  My chavrusa told me that the word in modern hebrew also means "audit" (they had just had one in his office).  Avraham Avinu did all this himself: an elderly man, with many (at least 318) servants, and who was in pain from his recent surgery.  But he did it all himself because of his great desire to to chesed.

"ma'asei avoseinu siman l'banim" I have heard; "ma'asei avoseinu mussar l'banim" I had not heard.  Yet the Ramban uses that word (mussar) two or three times in his description of the entire event.  It was worth getting up this morning.


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