Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
Rav Soloveitchik taught that if one wants to understand what the epitome of chesed is all about, one merely opens a chumash and read about the life of Avraham Avinu.
In the book of Bereishit (12:1) we read about three travelers coming to visit the ailing Avraham: one to announce the birth of Yitzchak, one to destroy Sedom, and the third to heal Avraham (Bava Metzia 86b). Rashi, [18:12] citing the Midrash, explains that each angel is given but one assignment [Bereishit Rabba 50:2]. (This is also true of human beings; we are given but one main assignment in life).
HaShem said, ”Will I hide from Avraham what I plan to do?….For I know him, that he will command his children…that they too shall keep the way of GD, to do righteousness and judgement, that GD may bring upon Avraham that which He has spoken of him. And HaShem said, Because the cry of Sedom and Amora is great, and because their sin is very grievous…(18:17-20)
And then the Torah tells us something extraordinary about Avraham. If we had been in his place, we would simply have thanked GD with all our heart for destroying the kingdom of evil so that our task would be simplified. But NO, Avraham pleads for Sedom, knowing that its very survival meant his own defeat. He was ready to accept defeat in order to give Sedom an opportunity to reform and restore itself. Avraham dropped his hatred for Sedom for the dictates of his conscience. He was ready to sacrifice his life and have his new philosophy appear to be a total failure. He was prepared to forgo his hopes and his vision for the future just that Sedom would not be destroyed. This is the epitome of chesed in the full sense of the word.
(Source: Journey: Reflections on the Life of the Founding Patriach by Rav Soloveitchik)