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Why Infants Have To Grow Up On Milk

The Secret of Giving

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    1337 views
  • October 11, 2010
  • |
  • 3 Cheshvan 5771
  • Comment

Class Summary:

Why Infants Have To Grow Up On Milk - The Secret of Giving
Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- In the loving memory of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivki Holtzberg and all of the Mumbai Kedoshim And in the loving memory of a young soul Alta Shula Swerdlov daughter of Rabbi Yossi and Hindel Swerdlov- In honor of her first yartzeit

A woman is leaving her multimillion dollar mansion in Beverly Hills when a poor man approaches her and cries, "Oh ma'am, I haven't eaten in three days."

To which the woman responds: "I am so envious of you; I wish had your will power."

Another anecdote:

David Goldberg, a seasoned doctor, turns to Harry Rabinowitz, the man seated next to him in the synagogue, and says, "Harry, you're an intelligent lawyer, I need your help."

The doctor begins his lament. "Every Shabbos," he says, "during the entire time of the service, people approach me seeking medical advice. This one has stomach pains, this one's wife woke up with a headache, this guy's mother-in-law's back hurts. I am just sick and tired of this. Shabbos is my only day of rest."

"Listen to me," says Harry. "Next guy that comes over, give him the advice he needs, but make sure to send him a bill for your medical advice the following week. I guarantee you," says Harry, "that in no time you will have peace and quiet in the synagogue."

"Great idea!" exclaims the doctor. He returns home in a great mood.

Tuesday, as David is opening the mail, he finds a bill from his friend Harry Rabinowitz.

Abraham's Menu
The Torah relates the meticulous order of the meal that Abraham offered his guests, recorded in the opening verses of this week's Torah portion Vayeira.[1] 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.

Yet another point is raised among the biblical commentators as to why Abraham chose 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 many possible appetizers, did Abraham decide to give them milk and cheese as a prelude to the meat?[2]

Even if Abraham was compelled for whatever reason to serve his guests milk, why does the Torah make a point of sharing this apparently insignificant detail with us.

The Mystique of Nursing
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 you write a check for charity, you checking account is diminished.

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

This is one of the deeper reasons why G-d created nature in a way that infants are nourished by milk. Through this natural process of infant nourishment, the Kabbalah teaches, a mother is given the 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, my dear child, the more I share it, the more I have it.   

The Gift of Love
Very often guests—particularly if they are strangers—feel uncomfortable staying in somebody else's home and eating another person's food.

Abraham, hypersensitive to the feelings of his guests, addressed this awkwardness by offering them milk and milk products at the start of the meal, reflecting the Jewish approach toward giving. Giving is like milk: you more you give, the more you get. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is a life filled with love and caring toward other human beings. More than the host does for the guest, the guest does for the host.

This is true in our marriages as well: when a husband and wife are committed to give to each other, they themselves are often surprised of how much they receive by the sheer act of giving to somebody outside of themselves. The love we give away is the only love we keep.

Or as Winston Churchill put it: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

There is a lovely story about the great Victorian Anglo-Jew, Sir Moses Montefiore. Montefiore was one of the outstanding figures of the nineteenth century. A close friend of Queen Victoria and knighted by her, he became the first Jew to attain high office in the City of London. His philanthropy extended to both Jews and non-Jews, and on his one-hundredth birthday, The London Times devoted editorials to his praise. "He had shown," said the Times, "that fervent Judaism and patriotic citizenship are absolutely consistent with one another."

One reflection was particularly moving: Someone once asked him, "Sir Moses, what are you worth?" Moses thought for a while and named a figure. "But surely," said his questioner, "your wealth must be much more than that." With a smile, Sir Moses replied, "You didn't ask me how much I own. You asked me how much I am worth. So I calculated how much I have given to charity this year."

"You see," he said, "we are worth what we are willing to share with others."[3]

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[1] Genesis 18:8.

[2] This question is raised in Divrei Binah to Parshas Vayiera. It is based on the axiom in the Jewish tradition that, in general, deeds performed by our Patriarchs and by tzaddikim are not random, but rather contain profound meaning and significance. This is true in particular to those deeds recorded in the Torah, the Divine blueprint for life. Every detail recorded in the Torah contains a timeless lesson for all of us (see Zohar vol. 3 p. 52b).

[3] Based on Divrei Binah ibid. and the sources quoted there.

 

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    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • October 11, 2010
    • |
    • 3 Cheshvan 5771
    • |
    • 1337 views
    • Comment
    Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- In the loving memory of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rivki Holtzberg and all of the Mumbai Kedoshim And in the loving memory of a young soul Alta Shula Swerdlov daughter of Rabbi Yossi and Hindel Swerdlov- In honor of her first yartzeit

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    Why Infants Have To Grow Up On Milk - The Secret of Giving

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