I have weeks looking for a beautiful comment mentioned Abraham's 3 main attributes in one of the "Insights" sections in the Artscroll's version of Midrash Rabbah. The note mentions Rachamanut, Tzniut and Acts of Kindness as the three core attributes of our Patriarch. I usually read this version of Midrash Rabbah every Shabbat through the year. But I haven't been able to find where this magnificent piece on Abraham Avinu's is mentioned. I don't remember in what Parasha it was located. I would appreciate if anyone knows where it's mentioned or other sources where I can learn in detail on each of these middot. I'm particularly interested in understanding Rachamanut. Thank you in advance for any guidance. Warm regards, Moshe

2 Answers 2


Sounds like it might be based on Yevamot 79a:

שְׁלֹשָׁה סִימָנִים יֵשׁ בְּאוּמָּה זוֹ: הָרַחְמָנִים, וְהַבַּיְישָׁנִין, וְגוֹמְלֵי חֲסָדִים.‏

There are three distinguishing marks of this nation [the Jewish people]. They are merciful, they are shamefaced, and they perform acts of kindness.


I believe Joel has given a good answer, if I may, I'd like to help use it to deal with your request to understand rachmanut. In that very gemara a story is told. A story by our blessed sages is not the same as a regular story. It's like a mirror, in it you will see yourself. You can find the full story there, please read it before reading my summary, which focusses on your point.

The gemara is discussing if the Gibeonites are genuine converts or not, for some halachic issue pertaining to Yibbum. Rabbi Chana Bar Adda brings a proof that they are not, from the following story:

Once, there was a famine in the land of Israel under King David. David inquired if it was due to idol worship but they could not find any. The next year again a famine, so David checked if it was to do with sexual misconduct, but couldn't find any. In the third year of famine, he checked if it was due to people pretending to give charity in public but not actually in private, but again, couldn't find any, so he took the blame himself.

He inquired of the urim v'tumim, and was told that the Gibeonites had a greivance with him. “And the Lord said: It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he put to death the Gibeonites”. Saul wasn't eulogized properly and that's why the Jews are suffering, and the Gibeonites had a claim against something Saul did, which needed to be resolved.

What did he do? Once when David was fleeing from him, David passed through the Jewish city of Nov, who took care of him. This was a treasonous act and when King Saul found out, he ordered the sacking of Nov. Nov happened to be a city that was providing food and water for the Gibeonites, so therefore they had a grievance against Saul.

So King David summoned the Gibeonites to see if he could appease them. He apologised and asked what he could do, and their answer shocked him and everyone else: they demanded 7 descendants of Saul be handed over to them to be hanged! After trying to talk them out of it, King David finally declared that they can't be true converts, as they clearly are lacking the three traits of kindness, rachmanus and shame.

So they arranged for the descendants of Saul to be brought before the Ark, and the Ark held back those to be handed over, who were then hanged. They remained hanged for 1 year before burial, and the gemara discusses that this, clearly being against halacha, was necessary for "the greater good", because it was a kiddush Hashem - all who saw those bodies knew that the Jewish nation and Hashem's Torah were different to the other nations and their conduct, because for the sake of "calculating converts" they hold even their nobility accountable, and as a result 150,000 people converted.

If the reader has the three traits, this story will prove it to them. The feeling of shock at the cruelty of the Gibeonites and their demands evokes one's mercy. The feeling of desperation and shame that is evoked picturing the scene of passing the descendants of Saul before the Ark to choose who lives and who dies. The triggering of one's trait of kindness, hearing that their bodies were not buried for 1 year...

The gemara itself brings the sources for all 3 traits:

David said: There are three distinguishing marks of this nation, the Jewish people. They are merciful, they are shamefaced, and they perform acts of kindness. They are merciful, as it is written: “And He will give you mercy, and have mercy upon you and multiply you” (Deuteronomy 13:18); not only will God have mercy upon you, but He will bestow the attribute of mercy upon you. They are shamefaced, as it is written: “And that His fear shall be upon your faces” (Exodus 20:17), and the fear that is on one’s face is his shame. They perform acts of kindness, as it is written: “For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the Lord, to practice righteousness and justice” (Genesis 18:19), i.e., to perform acts of kindness.

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