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Giving Means Gaining

Friday, 3 November, 2017 - 10:19 am

This week we read about the meticulous order of the meal that Abraham offered his guests. First, he gave them cheese and milk, and only afterward did he present them with calf’s meat, (consistent with Jewish dietary laws that deli products may be eaten after dairy products, but not vice versa).

Every detail recorded in the Torah contains a timeless lesson for us all. What then can be learned from Abraham choosing to serve his guests these particular items – milk, cheese and meat – to begin with? The choice of meat is clear, as he wished to serve his visitors a satisfactory meal. But why, from among the many possible appetizers, did Abraham decide to give them milk and cheese as a prelude to meat?

The rule of thumb in our world is that sharing something with somebody else constitutes a loss for the giver. If I have it, and give it to you, I lose it; if you have it, and give it to me, you lose it. If I write a check for charity, my checking account naturally shrinks.

An exception to this rule is the milk the mother feeds her suckling. As long as a mother continues sharing her nourishing liquid with the child, her mammary glands will keep on refilling with more milk. In fact, the quantity of the milk is usually dependent on her sharing it. The more a mother nurses, the greater the flow of her milk her body produces. When she ceases to breast-feed, her inner production of milk ceases.

This is one of the Kabbalistic explanations behind the unique phenomenon of breast-feeding. Through this natural process of infant nourishment, a mother is given the extraordinary opportunity to ingrain within her child’s tender consciousness the truth about sharing. The more you give, the more you will receive, just like the milk that you are now swallowing.

Very often guests – particularly if they are strangers – feel uncomfortable staying in somebody else’s home and eating another person’s food. Abraham, sensitive to the feelings of his guests, addressed this awkwardness by offering them milk at that start of the meal.

This reflected the revolutionary Jewish approach toward giving. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is a life filled with love and caring toward other human beings.

Shabbat Shalom

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