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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777
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The Meaning Of Hunger

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In the days of Shlomo HaMelech, the richest man in the land lived in Yerushalayim.  His name was Bavsi and he was known as a wicked miser. He oppressed his servants and his slaves and made their days bitter with toil from dawn until late at night. Because he was so stingy, he did not give them enough food to eat, so they and their children constantly suffered from pangs of hunger.

His evil reputation became so widespread that people began to say, “Stingy as Bavsi.” Others even said, “Evil as Bavsi.” All manners of stories used to be told about his stinginess. It was said that he had purposely not married so he wouldn’t have to support a wife and children. There was also a story told that the day after his brother came for dinner, no food was given to his servants and slaves in order to make up for the cost of his brother’s dinner.


Becomes A Food Profiteer

One time a great famine raged in the land. The wealthy but upright citizens opened their granaries and distributed food among the poor – but not Bavsi. He kept his granaries well-secured and put additional locks on the doors. He even reduced the food rations of the people of his household. He became a food profiteer, selling for very high prices, and his wealth multiplied.

Bavsi’s behavior aroused the people’s ire, and they muttered angrily against him until their indignation finally reached Shlomo HaMelech. When the wise king heard what was being said about Bavsi, he grew angry and he decided upon a plan to teach him a lesson.

He sent a royal chamberlain to him with an invitation to dinner. Bavsi was overwhelmed by such an honor from the King and he rejoiced greatly.

“It seems that I have found great favor in the eyes of the King,” he thought. “How my enemies will rage over my good fortune!”

All day long, Bavsi refrained from eating. He wished to arrive hungry at the King’s table so that he might consume more of the royal courses.


Told Rules Of Conduct

Upon Bavsi’s arrival at the royal palace, a chamberlain conducted him ceremoniously into a separate room and said, “The King will sup with you alone tonight. The following are the rules of conduct for when you sit down at the table with the King. You must do what I tell you, else the King will grow angry. And woe to you if the King should grow angry!”

“I will do as you bid me,” answered Bavsi, a little frightened.

“First of all, you must never ask for anything, neither from the King, nor from any of the servants. Secondly, no matter what you may see happen, you must not ask any questions nor utter any complaint. And lastly, when the King asks you whether you are enjoying the various courses, you must outdo yourself in praising them, even if they should not please you. Promise me, you will remember and obey the rules.”

“I promise,” swore Bavsi, uneasily.

“Very well then,” said the chamberlain. “There is still one hour before supper so I will have you wait in another room until I call you.”

The chamberlain then conducted Bavsi to a room. There, an open door led into the royal kitchen.

As Bavsi waited patiently, he saw through the door the elaborate preparations being made for the King’s and his supper. The aromas of the sizzling roasts and other courses were wafted through his nostrils. Since he had not eaten all day, he was very hungry, and the smell of food only teased his appetite. Several times, he had to exercise great self-control to keep himself from going into the kitchen so that he might still his hunger. He gritted his teeth and waited for supper.

The time arrived at last.  The chamberlain entered and led Bavsi into the royal presence.

“Sit down, my friend,” King Solomon said to him affably. “Do not be bashful, and eat to your heart’s content.”

Bavsi seated himself. A servant entered and placed a baked fish on a golden platter before the King. The King commenced to eat and as he ate, he exclaimed with rapture, “What fish! How delicious!”

And when the King had finished eating the fish, the servant then placed a dish of fish before Bavsi.

Overjoyed, Bavsi made an eager move toward the fish before him, but at that very moment, another servant snatched it from him and carried it to the kitchen.

Bavsi was on the verge of saying something, when he suddenly recalled the instructions the chamberlain had given him, and he kept his peace.

A servant then brought the King a fine broth in a golden bowl. The King drank the broth with relish while Bavsi waited impatiently to be served in turn. When the King finished his soup, the servant, as in the instance of the fish, also brought Bavsi a golden bowl of soup. But no sooner did he make a movement with his hand towards it, when another servant snatched it from him. The same happened with the roast and with the other courses.

Bavsi was beside himself with hunger and indignation. He cast looks of hatred at the servants, but he had to remain mute and smiling as he sat facing the King.

To the hungry Bavsi it seemed as if the meal would never come to an end.

“I hope you are enjoying your supper,” King Solomon remarked politely.

“I am indeed, O King! Everything is delicious,” the unhappy Bavsi answered.

“I am delighted to hear that,” said the King.

“The food has the taste of paradise in it,” said Bavsi with enthusiasm, recalling further the chamberlain’s instructions.


Detained Overnight

When the meal was over, Bavsi, faint with hunger, arose, anxious to make his departure. But the King held him back.

“Don’t go, my friend!” he said. “Do not part from me so fast. The night is still young. I’ve commanded the musicians to regale us with fine music!”

Reluctantly, Bavsi remained.

The musicians entered and played wondrously upon their instruments. But the music only annoyed Bavsi, for he could think of nothing but food.

After the musicians had finished, Bavsi once again rose to go.

“Don’t go, my friend,” said Shlomo HaMelech.  “The hour is too late for you to go home. Sleep this night in the palace.”

Bavsi knew that every word of the King’s was a command, so he remained.  He did not sleep all night because of the pangs of hunger.  Angrily he began to reflect on the possible meaning of the King’s conduct.

“Why did he invite me to a supper at which I was not allowed to eat?” he asked himself.


The Truth Dawns On Him

Suddenly it dawned on him that the King had only meant to teach him an object lesson in hunger.

Now, by means of his own experience, he understood the torment of need.  He, the wealthy Bavsi, the well-fed one, who had always despised the poor and had laughed at them when they cried that they were hungry.

The lesson had such a profound impression upon him that from that day onward he changed his ways and he became a different person.

Rabbi Sholom Klass

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