first of all a bowl of soup

Friday, 27 October, 2017 - 7:07 am


There is an iron-clad rule in the extended Raskin family: whenever someone comes into the house, first of all sit him down and give him a bowl of soup, and then find out what he wants. This is an old custom. I have always assumed that it became reinforced during the war, when the home of my great-grandfather, R. Shlomo Raskin, in Gorki was known to be the address for refugees. I am also sure that it’s a custom that exists not only in the Raskin family, but in many Jewish families of all sectors throughout the world. This is the way things go in a nation of exiles and refugees: first give some soup and then listen to what the guest has to say.

In the context of Avraham Avinu, I was always wondering what caused him to search for a different god from the one that his family and friends worshipped. What was troubling him? Was everyone except him completely ignorant and stupid? What was he searching for?

You know, sometimes the result teaches us something about what led to it. When I see that the result of the searching, the finding and Avraham’s crowning Hashem as Master of the World was the erecting of a tent with four openings, providing passersby with food, drink and a place to sleep – a bed, and a bowl of soup with noodles – I think that perhaps that’s what he was looking for. Perhaps the gods of his forefathers didn’t necessarily encourage people to give; perhaps the gods of his forefathers said that every person was to take care of himself, that it’s not your job to care for others. And this did not sit well with Avraham, who was infused with the attribute of Chessed – lovingkindness. That is why he searched for the kind, merciful G-d, the one who commands us to love one’s fellow man as oneself. And that is what has caused Jews in every generation to say: First of all, sit him down with a bowl of soup and then hear what he has to say.

What do you think?

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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