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  A Child's Honor from
Stories My Grandfather Told Me Volume 5 -- Devarim
Memorable Tales based on the Weekly Sidrah

By Zev Greenwald  Libby Lazewnik  Tova Katz 



A Child's Honor

“These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel, across the Jordan”
(Devarim 1:1)

“Because they are words of rebuke, and [because Scripture] lists here all the places in which they caused anger before the Omnipresent -- this is why it put ‘the words’ vaguely, and mentioned them through intimation, because of the honor of Israel.”
(Rashi)

A group of students from Talmud Torah Eitz Chaim once went with their teacher to visit the rosh yeshivah, R’ Isser Zalman Meltzer. The rosh yeshivah tested the boys, asking them questions on the Gemara they were learning.

When R’ Isser Zalman asked for the explanation of a certain Tosafos, one of the boys answered in a way that showed he did not correctly understand it. R’ Isser Zalman tried to spare the boy humiliation.

“Maybe,” the rosh yeshivah suggested, “you really meant this and this.” And he himself began to explain the Tosafos to the boy.

But the student protested, “No! That’s not what I meant.” And he went back to his incorrect explanation.

R’ Isser Zalman tried to explain the Tosafos in a different way, always making sure to add, “That’s probably what you meant to say.”

But the boy stubbornly stuck to his own explanation of the Tosafos.

The student’s teacher lost all patience with the boy, but R’ Isser Zalman continued for ten minutes to try to spare the boy more embarrassment -- but in vain.

Finally, the rosh yeshivah apologized to those present, saying that he had to leave the room for a few minutes. He walked into the hall, closed the door behind him, and began to pace to and fro. As he paced, R’ Isser Zalman was heard repeating to himself, over and over, “Honoring one’s fellow man includes children, too ... honoring one’s fellow man includes children, too.”

After a few minutes, R’ Isser Zalman returned to the room. He behaved as though the students had just walked in. With fresh enthusiasm and warmth he turned to the boy and began explaining the Tosafos once again, until the boy finally grasped his meaning and was saved from total embarrassment.

l l l

R’ Avigdor Halberstam, brother of R’ Chaim of Sanz, was once a guest in a rich man’s home. In those days, the custom was for an honored guest to dole out the cholent on Shabbos. R’ Avigdor’s host, therefore, placed the cholent pot in front of R’ Avigdor at the table.

R’ Avigdor put some cholent on his plate and tasted it! Then he took another taste. Instead of handing out the cholent to the rest of the family, R’ Avigdor continued to eat spoonful after spoonful, until there was no cholent left for anyone else!

When the cholent pot was empty, R’ Avigdor asked if there was another pot, or whether there was any more cholent left in the kitchen. The rich man hurried to bring everything that was left -- and R’ Avigdor ate every bit of it. He left nothing at all for the others.

The rich man and his family were dumbfounded. They understood that their honored guest must have his reasons for his actions, but they could not fathom what those reasons could possibly be.

A few days passed -- and the reason for R’ Avigdor’s actions came to light. The widow who cooked for the rich man had made a mistake. Instead of pouring oil into the cholent pot, she had poured in kerosene. R’ Avigdor, after that first taste, realized her error -- but did not want the maid to be embarrassed. Mastering his distaste, he finished his own portion, and then made sure that no one else would get a chance to taste that awful cholent.

When all was found out, R’ Avigdor explained, “Better that they think me a glutton, and better that I suffer with eating kerosene-flavored cholent, than to let the widowed maid feel humiliated.”

 
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