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"Yitzchak loved Eisav for game was in his mouth..." (Bereishis 25:28).

One of the basic tenets of the prohibition of judging a person unfavorably is that things are not always as they seem to be.

The following story, recorded by Rabbi Zilberstein shlita in Barechi Nafshi, is a good example.

There was a pious Jew near Ohr Yehudah By the name of Reb Tzion Sevid z"l. He himself was not such a great Torah scholar, but he respected them very much and organized groups for them to learn comfortably in the local synagogue. While they were learning, he would pour cups of hot tea, place them on a tray, and offer each student a cup, to warm his body and his soul and make it more pleasant to learn. He did this daily, for years.

However, there was one thing strange about Reb Tzion. He never filled the cups to the top. They were always only half-filled. Everyone wondered about this practice of his but no one ever mentioned it to him. Instead, they began speculating the reason on their own. Some suggested that he is probably stingy by nature and so, although the tea did not cost him anything, he couldn't break his bad habit and was unable to get himself to fill the cup. Others suggested even worse reasons for his strange habit. Reb Tzion knew what people were saying about him but, nevertheless, it did not deter him from acting the way he did.

One day, Reb Tzion was not well and did not show up at the synagogue at his regular hour. His son was there and decided that he would take his father's place and do the mitzvah of distributing the tea. He, too, had never understood why his father didn't fill the cups, but, out of respect, he had never questioned him. Today, the cups were in his hands and so he filled them as much as was possible.

Suddenly, Reb Tzion arrived. He inspected his son's work and showed signs of dissatisfaction. He immediately poured out some tea from each of the cups before distributing them. This was too much for his son to bear. He finally asked his father why he had this strange practice. His father replied, "Do you know those two talmidei chachamim who are part of the group?" His son responded in the positive. "Well," his father continued, "their hands shake uncontrollably. The tea is boiling hot. If they take a full cup in their hands, it will undoubtedly spill on them and burn them. Perhaps it will even spill on their clothes and stain them. They will suffer pain and embarrassment. In order to protect them, I only fill the cups halfway; even though now it is I who suffers embarrassment in some people's eyes. Better me than them!" Reb Tzion concluded.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel