Rav Hillel Van-Leeuwen
Head of Leadership Development, World Mizrachi
When Avraham is saddened by having no guests, G-d summons 3 human-looking angels to visit him. Avraham then asks G-d to bear with him: “Please do not pass over your servant.” From here our Sages learn how great hospitality is – even more than dwelling in G-d’s presence.
Some people think that Bein Adam L’Makom is the essence of Judaism; they might invest less in Bein Adam L’Chavero, i.e. being extremly strict with kashrut, even at the cost of offending people and harming unity, or sitting for endless hours immersed in Torah study even at the expense of their wife / children / friends who need their help.
But one should prioritize differently: every mitzvah Bein Adam L’Chavero is ultimately also a mitzvah Bein Adam L’Makom, for G-d himself commanded us in the Torah to love others, to give charity, to care for an orphan and a widow, etc. Indeed, Bein Adam L’Chavero is therefore twice as important!
When discussing various types of tzaddikim, the Gemara (Kidushin 40) comments, based on a pasuk in Yeshayahu, that some are “good righteous men” while others are “righteous but not good”. In his book “Ben Yehoyada”, Rav Yosef-Chaim of Baghdad, the Ben Ish Chai, asks: If a person isn’t good, how can we even call him a tzaddik at all!? If one is bad to others, he cannot be considered good in the eyes of G-d; for we must be careful about transgressions between man and his neighbor, more than transgressions between man and G-d! Therefore, Rav Yosef-Chaim explains the gemara differently: “Bad to others” – does not refer necessarily to somebody who actively harms others, or steals or abuses; rather, a tzaddik who is “bad to others” is one who but speaks in a negative way about others. G-d does not allow slander within His People (“bad to others”), even for good reasons (good to G-d)!
From Avraham we learn to give ample weight and thought to our relationships with other people, treating them with the utmost respect and sensitivity, making sure that our Bein Adam L’Makom does not interfere with our Bein Adam L’chavero.