Our forefather Abraham is famous for two seemingly disparate things: bringing monotheism to the world, and his unceasing acts of kindness, as demonstrated in this week's Torah portion when Abraham welcomes three desert nomads and serves them a meal.

Monotheism and kindness actually go hand in hand because the belief in One God leads to kindness.


Here are two ways they are connected.

Once Abraham recognized the existence of God, an Infinite being Who has no limitations or needs, his next challenge would be: How does one come close to this Transcendent Being? He realized that he could create an affinity with God by emulating Him. The more he resembled God, the closer he would become to Him.

As the Talmud says, (Shabbos 133b) "Just as He is compassionate and merciful, so should you be."

So Abraham thought: There is nothing a perfect, Infinite Being can derive from creation; it must be all for us. We have done nothing to deserve to be born. All of life is a gargantuan, undeserved gift of pure kindness.

In addition to spreading the idea of monotheism to the world, Abraham strove to be like God by being a giver.

The trait of kindness, therefore, is the bedrock of existence. So in addition to spreading the idea of monotheism to the world, Abraham went further and strove to be like God by being a giver.

It's a blow-away experience to commune with God, as Abraham is seen doing at the beginning of this week's Torah portion (Genesis, 18:1). God appears to him and he receives some form of prophecy. But then Abraham actually leaves God's presence to go make dinner for three total strangers! How could he walk away from what must be an intense, transcendental experience to perform such a mundane, pedestrian activity?

Not at all. Abraham did the greater spiritual act. Instead of just talking to God, he became like God through his acts of kindness. With this, he teaches us: "Greater is welcoming guests than receiving the Divine Presence" (Shabbat 127a).

We All Have the Same Father

There is another reason why monotheism is the foundation for giving. Let's look at the flip side. If God did not exist, and the only reality is the material world, would I have a moral obligation to extend myself and give to those who are weaker and in need? For those who prefer it, life is one massive Squid Game, it's the strong who survive. Welcome to the law of the jungle.

Every person is created equally in the image of God, no matter the color of skin, religion, cognitive ability, or sexual orientation.

Putting God into the equation changes everything. An Infinite Being is the Source for everything and we all share the same Father. That means that all human beings are part the family of mankind; we are all brothers and sisters. Every person is created equally in the image of God, invested with a Divine soul, no matter the color of skin, religion, cognitive ability, or sexual orientation.

A father loves all of his children and wants his children to look after each other. We have a moral duty to extend ourselves and to give, especially to those who are the weakest members of society who need our help the most.

Judaism's Most Important Principle

The great Talmudic sage, Rabbi Akiva, famously said, "'Love your neighbor as yourself' (Lev. 19:18) This is the most important rule in the Torah" (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 30b).

This statement echoes Hillel's reply to the would-be convert who asked him to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go learn” (Shabbos 31a).

I can understand that loving your neighbor is important, but how can all of Judaism be reduced to interpersonal relationships? Where is God in the picture?

Understanding the connection between monotheism and kindness answers this question. When you love your neighbor, you are doing so much more than giving. You are first recognizing the Godliness that is inherent in that person. And you are becoming like God. "Love your neighbor" encompasses both relationships – man to man, and man to God. That's why it's the pillar of Judaism.

Jewish spirituality isn't only in the synagogue; it's in our homes, our workplace, our streets, because the most concrete way we can connect to God is treating each other with kindness and compassion.

The rest is commentary. Go learn.

Artwork above is by Yoram Raanan. Visit his site at https://www.yoramraanan.com/