Even the poorest man in Israel may not eat until he reclines and they must not give him less than four cups of wine, eve, even if he is supported by the charity soup kitchen. (Gemara Pesachim 99b) A famous story is related concerning Rav Chaim of Brisk who, hours before Pesach, received a knock at the door. Outside stood a poor man who said: “Rabbi, I need to ask you a question about Seder night. Is it permissible to drink milk for the four cups at the Seder?” Rav Chaim asked his wife to bring five rubles, which he gave to the man and wished him a happy Pesach. When the man had departed, Rav Chaim’s wife inquired: “Why did you give so much money to that man? One ruble would have been sufficient to buy wine for the whole of Pesach.” Rav Chaim replied: “Since he was asking whether he could drink milk at the Seder, I deduced that he obviously could not afford meat either! The extra money was to purchase meat for the festival.” This story reminds us of two important lessons. Firstly, there is a Mitzvah called Lifnim MiShurat HaDin, going beyond the call of duty. Sure, we can offer basic help where required; but a higher level is to provide additional assistance where possible. Secondly, this story teaches us about Chesed, kindness. We should always be considering and assessing the needs of others, and responding accordingly.
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Four Cups….of milk??!! : Pesachim 99b
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