The text of the Torah doesn't reveal anything about his early life. The Torah itself introduces us to Abraham only at the age of 75 without providing much background with regards to his spiritual journey, or philosophical approach to life.

However, the Torah does focus heavily on one attribute of Abraham: his trait of kindness, chessed. Abraham is pained when he cannot have guests over. He prays for guests and on the third day of his circumcision runs after three men to invite them into his tent. He risks his life to save Lot from the four kings, goes out of his way to pray for the city of Sodom, and sets up a hospitality center.

While the Torah emphasizes Abraham’s trait of kindness, we are not told about his religious journey, his philosophy and how he spread it educationally. Why does the Torah leave out this information that seems critical to Abraham’s journey?

In truth, Jews have always been passionate about two things, education and charity. Both are valued by people across the spectrum of Judaism, religious and unaffiliated. Every Jewish parent wants his child to be well educated and will invest time, effort and resources to ensure the reality of that goal. Jews have also always been passionate about charity as Maimonides1 writes “We have never seen nor heard of a Jewish community that does not have a charity box for charity.” Until today Jews of all backgrounds are at the helm of charitable causes. However, when it comes to the description our forefather Abraham, the focus is only on his acts of kindness rather than the value of education.

I believe that although kindness and education may seem to be mutually exclusive, in reality the Jewish definition of education is based on the same underlying principle of kindness, chessed, and that is the lesson to be learned from this week's Torah portion. In Judaism, education is much more than just the intellectual pursuit of acquiring knowledge. In its purest form it is the search for the ultimate truth, the truth that will elevate our existence as people in this world. The problem is that every person has his preconceived notions about right and wrong. The way that we perceive the knowledge we acquire becomes tainted based on our personal interests and the views to which we were conditioned to believe. How can we determine what is objectively true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong?

This is where the attribute of kindness comes in. It is far more than just being considerate to look out for the needs of others. Kindness is the understanding that I am not in the center, that I must look outside of myself, outside of my personal interests. This is why Abraham's revolution was not just one of kindness but an ideological revolution as well. Not only did he try to understand how the world functions and operates, but he was the first to ask who created it and for what purpose. The way in which Abraham viewed the world around him, and eventually came to recognize God as the Creator of the Universe was precisely because he embodied the attribute of kindness.

The Torah focuses on Abraham’s tremendous passion for kindness as it is this attribute that brought him to the true understanding of God. And it is this attribute that is the symbol of a Jew, as the Talmud teaches2 “There are three characteristics which distinguish the Jewish People, they are merciful, they are bashful and they are performers of acts of kindness."

  1. Hilchot Matnos Anyim 9,3
  2. Yevamot 79a