More than the Calf Wants to Suck the Cow Wants to Suckle: The Pleasure of Him Accepting a Gift

by tillerofthesoil

“Our Rabbis have taught: Always let the left hand repel and the right hand draw near” (BT Sotah 47a).

And he raised his eyes and saw, and, look, three men were standing before him. He saw, and he ran toward them from the tent flap and bowed to the ground. And he said, “אֲדֹנָי (Adonai)My lords, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past your servant. Let a little water be fetched and bathe your feet and stretch out under the tree, and let me fetch a morsel of bread, and refresh yourselves. Then you may go on, for have you not come by your servant? (Genesis 18:2-5).

“Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: Hospitality to wayfarers is greater than welcoming the Shekhinah, for it is written, And he said, אֲדֹנָי (Adonai), My Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not go on past‘ [Abraham thus left the Divine Presence, as it were, to attend to the wants of the three wayfarers, cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a]” (BT Shabbat 127a).

Rabbi Yoḥanan said: ‘What is: And so, when Moses would raise his hand, Israel prevailed, and when he would put down his hand, Amalek prevailed (Exodus 17:11)? This is to teach that the world exists because of the lifting of the hands in prayer, in the priest’s benediction. Why? Because of that power which was given to our father Jacob, whose name is Israel.’ Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given powers, one to each one of them, and it was given to each of them according to the character of his ways. Abraham renders loving-kindness לְעוֹלָם (le-olam), forever, for he used to invite everyone in the עוֹלָם (olam), world, and all the wayfarers, provide them with food and run to welcome them, as is written: and he ran toward them (Genesis 18:2), and it is written: and bowed to the ground (ibid.). This was a perfect act of loving-kindness [cf. BT Shevu’ot 35a; Shabbat 127a], and the blessed Holy One bestowed upon him according to his measure and gave him the quality of kindness חֶסֶד (Ḥesed), as is written: You give truth to Jacob, and loving-kindness to Abraham, which you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:20).

What is from the days of old? This is to teach that if Abraham had not perform acts of loving-kindness and nor merited the quality of חֶסֶד (Ḥesed), Jacob would not have merited the quality of אֱמֶת (emet), Truth, for it is because Abraham was worthy of the quality of kindness that Isaac merited the quality of פַּחַד (paḥad), Terror, as is written: And Jacob swore בְּפַחַד (be-faḥad), by the Terror, of his father Isaac (Genesis 31:53). Is there a man who will swear in this way in the trust of his father’s fear? But at that point Jacob did not yet receive his own power, so he swore by the power which was given to his father, as is said: And Jacob swore by the Terror of his father Isaac.

And what is it? This is the תֹהוּ (tohu), chaos, from which the evil which תָּהָא (taha), confounds, people proceeds. And what is it? It is that of which is written: And YHWH’s fire came down and consumed the offering and the wood and the dirt, and the water that was in the trench it licked up (I Kings 18:38). It is also written For YHWH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).

And what is חֶסֶד (Ḥesed)? It is Torah, as is written: Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no silver come you (Isaiah 55:1). And to him who does not have silver, it is silver, as is written come you, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without silver and without price (ibid.). He will feed you and teach you Torah for you already have become worthy of it because of the merit of Abraham who used to do acts of loving-kindness. Without silver—he would feed others; without payment—he would give them wine and milk” (Bahir §135–§136).

“More than the calf wants to suck the cow wants to suckle” (BT Pesaḥim 112a).

“[What is the ruling in the case of a woman who says to a man] here are one hundred dinars and I will become betrothed to you?’ Mar Zutra ruled in Rav Pappa’s name: She is betrothed… Here the reference is [only] to an important man: in return for the pleasure from him accepting a gift from her she completely cedes herself [though normally the man must give the money (see BT Qiddushin 5b), yet if he is eminent his acceptance confers pleasure, which in turn is considered of financial value]” (BT Qiddushin 7a).

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