Consideration of Others

When Avraham Avinu greeted his visitors, he asked them to take a little bit of water, to wash their feet. The question was asked as to why he only mentioned, מעט מים, a small amount of water.

My student from India, Orel Kipgen, directed me to a story about Rav Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar Movement.

He was once a guest in someone’s house. His host noticed that he used a minimum amount of water, before washing his hands before eating. He politely asked why the saintly rabbi didn’t use a larger amount for washing. After all, the Talmud says that using big quantities for washing is one way to be granted great sustenance.

Rav Salanter explained that he noticed that the water had to be drawn from a nearby well. This meant that the laborer had to bring the water with great exertion. If he would have used an abundance of water, the poor worker would have had extra work.

He felt the right thing to do was to use the minimum for the Mitzva. It was more important to consider the feelings of others, than to do his personal Mitzva without consideration of others.

This is a great lesson for all of us. It is praiseworthy to try to observe all of the commandments of the Torah with great fervor. But we must always take into account those that are placed at an imposition, because of this zeal. There is never an excuse to needlessly cause grief to others.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at