When 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)
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org