Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eating Without Paying

I was taking a course on the ancient classics, which, of course, includes The Odyssey.

For those unfamiliar with The Odyssey, here's a short synopsis:

Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, one of the many Grecian kingdoms at the time, and is unwillingly conscripted into war against Troy. The war itself takes ten years (described in The Iliad); then, after ticking off the sea god, Poseidon, for killing his son Polyphemus (one of the Cyclops), Odysseus wanders for an additional decade until he arrives home.  

In the interim, his wife, Penelope, is harassed by an army of men vying to marry her and take over Ithaca. They spend years in her home, slaughtering the island's cattle and drinking her wine and attacking the womenfolk while she can do nothing. 

Then Odysseus gets back. Hee hee. They dead.
My professor explained how the crime of these suitors was called (I am getting this totally wrong) ne polnon edore (or something like that), "eating without paying." There was a certain level of behavior expected in the ancient world, even amongst gentiles; guests would be treated very well, but not to the point where they could pillage the host's home. 

"Eating without paying" is ingratitude. And ingratitude is punishable by death. 

That was no different in the times of Dovid, when he was still battling for the throne (Shmuel Aleph, perek 25). There was a wealthy man by the name of Naval, whose shepherds were protected by Dovid's soldiers. Dovid sends a messenger to him, requesting supplies in return for this consideration, and Naval refuses, claiming never to have heard of Dovid. In response, Dovid simply straps on his sword and takes along one hundred men to kill Naval and wipe out his line.  

However, his wife had beauty and brains. Hearing from her servants of her husband's defiance, and knowing what the fate of her household would be, she quickly gathers provisions and rides out.
Dovid hears her pleas, receives her gifts, and accepts her word that Naval is a fool. Ten days later Naval is dead from a sudden illness, and Dovid proposes marriage. 

Ingratitude is a toxic emotion, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. For happiness, one must feel gratitude. 

And there is so much to be grateful for. An indoor bathroom, for one.  

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