WEEK 1: Ushpizin
Day 1: Abraham
Abraham is the first of the ushpizin (guests) we welcome during Sukkot. Chesed (‘lovingkindness’ or ‘mercy’) is associated with Abraham. Chesed is the active, giving, aspect of God. Chesed emanates from Chokhmah (Wisdom) above it, on the “right side” of the Tree of Life.
Abraham was known for not waiting to be kind to others. Being the first of the middot, Chesed is clearly ‘proactive.’ It is not only first in terms of hierarchy, but also in that it has nothing ‘causing it.’
‘The world is built with chesed.’ (Psalm 89:3)
Even before his reputation for hospitality became known, Abraham was the model of being proactive. He searched for and discovered G-d on his own, while rejecting the idolatry of his contemporaries.
Abraham did not allow his environment to dictate his choices.
Abraham carried out G-d’s commands with eagerness and speed, such as when G-d told him to:
1. travel from his homeland to Canaan.
2. circumcise himself
3. offer his son Isaac to G-d. (i.e., He “rose early in the morning,”)
‘The scrupulous do the Mitzvoth immediately.’ (Yoma 28b).
Conversely, just as chesed has no borders, Abraham lacked the ability to distinguish between Isaac and Ishmael. Midrashim tell us that when G-d told him to take ‘his son,’ Abraham responded that he had two sons. When He said, ‘your only son’ he replied that he has two only sons from different mothers. When told, ‘whom you love,’ Abraham said that he loved both his sons. Finally, G-d said ‘Isaac.’
So G-d sent Sarah as his ‘personal’ counterbalance. The ability to make distinctions comes with the second of the middot – Gevurah.