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Oct 18

Kind and Calculated

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pour-627374-mWhen three desert travelers are invited into Abraham’s tent to join him for a meal, Abraham and Sarah treat them to a lavish feast. Butter and milk were laid out and meat, freshly slaughtered, was offered for these complete strangers. The Talmud even says a separate cow was slaughtered and served to each guest! When they were offered a drink though, Abraham says to them, “Please, a little water should be taken…” Why was Abraham so sparing with water, in contrast to his bountiful offerings of meat and delicacies?

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef zt”l, the great Sephardic leader who passed away last week in Israel, was well known for his superhuman Torah scholarship and diligence, and for a heart completely devoted to the needs of others, from all walks of life. A close student of his, Rabbi David Ozeri, related that when Rav Ovadiah visited New York, he stayed with the Ozeris in Brooklyn. Before he brought his luggage into the house, Rav Ovadiah asked to see the room in which he and his wife would be staying. Satisfied with the room, he asked his host if there was a small light that he could use for reading, that would not disturb his wife while she was sleeping. Rabbi Ozeri showed him that the only personal light in the room was in a small closet. Rav Ovadiah said that light would be perfect, and asked for a chair that would fit in the closet. Fully satisfied with the room, he left and soon returned with a large sack of books, which he laid next to the chair.

Shabbos morning, Rabbi Ozeri asked Rav Ovadiah’s wife Margalit how the arrangements were. She smiled from ear to ear and responded, “Excellent! My husband spent the entire night in the closet studying Torah while I slept!”

Abraham said “a little water should be taken,” which the Talmud interprets to mean that he asked someone else to help with the water while he prepared all the other arrangements himself. He requested only a little water out of concern that asking for more would be a burden on the carrier. This is but one lesson regarding greatness; it requires that diligence and dedication be balanced with concern for the needs of others. (Sefer Lekach Tov)

Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org

5 comments

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  1. Howard Fosman

    If Abraham knew the Torah why did he have milk and butter on the table with meat?

    1. mdixler

      It’s a great question. I don’t know the exact answer, but it will help to know that there’s nothing wrong with eating dairy 1st and then later eating meat. Today when people do this they’ll take a short break between the milk and meat, and/or take a drink and eat something dry between them. I don’t know if he expected the guests to do this too. Maybe since the guests weren’t Jewish and keeping the Torah it didn’t matter to him what they did. Only Jews have to separate milk from meat.

  2. David J Longenhagen

    I have read this passage greatly over time (I am 55) in consideration of water as water, the great flood whose occurrence was such a bane to those wishing to be immoral and with great vice, but, was not just a flood to “clean the slate”. Indeed as the great canopy of water rained down upon the earth it unleashed the disease of Deuterium, ageing. For any free surface water contains 155 ppm of this “bad water”, drink too much and you die of old age quickly, drink sparingly and you age slowly. In his great wisdom, designing the plants to differentiate between the two types of water, and within the flesh of plants is a lower concentration of it. While I would not wish to disagree as to making another work needlessly, I would suggest that using water sparingly to ones guests is a selfless act of sparing them of the plight of old age. Amen

  3. Steve

    He had concern for the person bringing the water but not for those who slaughtered the cows?

    1. mdixler

      The verse says that he took care of the cows himself.

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