Better a small serving of vegetables with love
than a fattened calf with hatred. — Proverbs 15:17
According to Jewish tradition, there was a short undocumented period of time where King Solomon was dethroned as king of Israel. During this time, Solomon was forced to flee from place to place seeking food and shelter. One day, a man invited Solomon to his home for a meal. The man was quite wealthy and served Solomon a feast full of delicacies, including the meat of fattened oxen.
However, as Solomon was enjoying his meal, the host remarked about the former times when Solomon sat on the throne, saying, “Do you remember that when you were king, you used to do such-and-such on that particular day?” Stirring up Solomon’s emotions, this statement brought him to tears and he was unable to enjoy or even taste the wonderful meal laid out before him. Eventually, Solomon got up and left in deep sorrow without finishing his meal.
The story continues that the next day someone else invited Solomon to their home. Still upset by the previous day’s occurrence, Solomon initially refused fearing a repeat episode. However, this host persisted, encouraging the king to join him, but he explained that Solomon would have to be content with a meal of meager greens since the host was poor and had nothing more to offer.
Solomon agreed to join the man for a meal. When he arrived at his host’s home, the man washed Solomon’s hands and feet and brought him the humble meal of greens. As Solomon ate, the host began to speak about God’s promise to David that the kingship would never depart from his family line. The man assured Solomon that even if he was being disciplined at present, God would surely restore his kingship and the current situation would pass. By the time Solomon had finished eating, his spirit was calm and content. He left feeling satisfied and in good spirits.
Once Solomon was restored to the throne, he recalled this personal incident and wrote in Proverbs: “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.”
This advice born out of Solomon’s own experience teaches us that how we give is just as important as what we give – or perhaps even more so. The Jewish sages taught that it is better to give a poor man a meal of vegetables with a happy face than a meal of meat with an angry one.
Let’s remember this message whether we are extending a hand to strangers, friends, or our family members. Do it with love — or not at all. No one wants to feel diminished while receiving help. It’s not about how much we can give, but how much love is in our hearts while we are giving.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President