II. Gems of Wisdom from the Talmud for Exploration
R. Papa says: The main reward a person receives for visiting a mourner’s home is for silence.
R. Sheshet says: The reward of a funeral eulogy lies (not in the substance of the oration, but) in the tone of the voice of the speaker.
R. Ashi says: The reward of attending a wedding lies in the speeches that should bring joy to the bride and groom.
Mar Zutra says: The reward people receive for observing a fast day is for the charity they give.
1. Why do you think there should be a premium on being silent when visiting a mourner? How might we do that – in practice?
2. What might make a big difference in the tone of a eulogy?
3. Why should bringing joy be the goal of a speech at a wedding? Illustrate.
4. Why might giving charity be associated with observing a fast?
5. Linking this all together, explain why I would lead off our discussion today with this gem of wisdom.
R. Yitzchak said: “Whoever gives a small coin to a poor man is rewarded with six blessings, and someone who comforts him with words (and is unable to give him a coin) receives eleven blessings. (If a person gives a coin and comforts him, he will receive seventeen blessings.)”
How do we know that whoever gives a coin to a poor man receives six blessings? Because it (the Bible, Isaiah 58:7) says we should give bread to the hungry, shelter to the wanderer, and clothes to the naked (and the next verse lists six blessings).
And how do we know that someone who comforts him with words receives eleven blessings? Because it (Isaiah 58:10) says, “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light will shine even in the darkness,” etc. (And that verse and the following two list eleven blessings.)
Bava Basra 9b
1. As we recall Jesus promising reward to those who help and are hospitable to the poor (Luke 6:38, 14:12-14; Matthew 25:37-40), we still wonder: what does it mean to be rewarded for actions like these? And what specifically does it mean to be rewarded with blessings?
2. Why would comforting a person in need with words merit “more” blessings than helping with money?
3. Why might giving both lead to more blessings, that of the combined number? And what might that mean? (Study Isaiah 58:7-12)
R. Dimi of Nehardea said: Hospitality is a greater mitzvah (good deed) than getting up early to go to the bet midrash (house of study) (to learn Torah, that is, God’s words)…
Rav Yehuda said in Rav’s name: Hospitality is a greater mitzvah than having a revelation of the Shechinah (an encounter with God)…
R. Yehudah b. Shila said in R. Assi’s name in R. Yochanan’s name: There are six things whose fruits a person enjoys in this world, but whose principal remains intact in the World to Come. They are: hospitality to guests, visiting the sick, absorption in prayer, early attendance at the bet midrash, raising your children to study Torah, and judging your neighbor favorably.
1.What does hospitality mean? How could being hospitable be more important than an encounter with God?!
2. What might it mean that when we do these 6 listed things it will bear fruit we can enjoy in this world while the principal of the doing remains intact in the World to Come?
Ben Zoma once saw a very large crowd…He said: Blessed is…He who has created all these people to serve me.
He used to say: Look how hard Adam had to work until he found a loaf of bread to eat. He plowed, he sowed, he harvested, he bound sheaves, he threshed, he winnowed, he selected, he ground, he sifted he kneaded, and he baked. Only after all this effort was he able to eat. But I, Ben Zoma, wake up in the morning, and I find all these things done for me.
And look how much effort Adam had to take until he found a garment that he could wear. He had to…
1. Think of something that you sometimes take for granted. Now trace it from its origin to your house – all the steps and all the people who added value to it.
2. How does this reflection add to your feeling of gratitude? And how might that feeling add to the love you feel for others – both for those who added value to the object, and others?
There was this man who walked along saying: “when our love was strong, we could have lain together on the width of a sword. But now that our love is not strong, a bed with a width of sixty cubits is not large enough for us.
At the outset, God said, “I will meet with you there, speaking to you from above the ark cover.” (Exodus 25:22) …
…But later on, it says “Thus says God, “The Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool; what house could you build for Me?” (Isaiah 66:1)
1.Have you felt love in a “very small space?” Describe.
2. How can we lose that feeling when in far larger, perhaps even richer spaces?
3. How might we mis-serve God when we build large, rich space “for Him?”
Wrap-up and Take-aways.