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Even Kindness has its Limits

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
It’s extremely difficult to find the magic formula for living a balanced life.  We are used to speaking about the hospitality of Avraham Avinu, how he ran after three strangers in the middle of the desert to offer them food and drink. This is all true and yet, a small but crucial detail is often left out when telling this story.  Avraham asks his guests to wash their feet before entering his tent. Rashi explains that Avraham thought they might be idol worshipers who bowed down to the dust of their feet, and he had to make sure that they would not bring any element associated with idol worship into his tent.
This is the greatness of Avraham Avinu and it behooves us to learn from it. On the one hand, our mission is to be hospitable as a means to bringing others close to G-d and to Torah but, on the other hand, we need to make sure distance is kept from anything that contradicts that mission. On the one hand, we need to be giving and caring with an open heart and an open home, and all of humanity is invited to join us in fulfilling this mitzvah that was first practiced by Avraham Avinu. But, on the other hand, like Avraham Avinu, too, we cannot allow ourselves to be confused and to blur our borders. We need to establish clear and well-defined boundaries, knowing when to draw back and what to carefully avoid while carrying out our mission. Even the dust of idol worship cannot be allowed to enter the special tent of Avraham and Sarah.
Kindness, assistance to others, Tikkun Olam, and changing the world itself can only happen when we also know how to say “No, there are limits, some borders are inviolable and absolutely cannot be crossed.”


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