The most priceless gift: a smile!

What is 'white-toothed from milk?'

Danny Ginsbourg

Judaism Israel - a smile of peace
Israel - a smile of peace

In our coming parsha, Vayechi,  Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) gives a parting blessing to each of his sons.

His blessing to Yehuda (Judah) is that:(49:10-12)’The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda’, and that his land be blessed with abundant produce, ‘and white toothed from milk’:לבן שנים מחלב.

Our sages (:כתובות קיא), expound the concluding words homiletically, as:The white teeth:the smile, that you show to others, is better even than the milk-מחלב-that you give to them.

The Midrash (אבות דרבי נתן)expands on this, saying:’If one gives a person all the good gifts in the world, but does so without a smiling countenance, he is deemed not to have given him anything; but, if he receives him with a smiling countenance, even if he does not give him anything, he is deemed to have given him all the gifts of the world’!

Let us suggest that the psukim in our parsha provide the answer to this intriguing Midrash:All the material things we ‘have’, are a gift from Hashem; when we share them with others, we are, in fact, only giving that which ‘belongs’ to Hashem.

However, when we smile, or give encouragement to others, we are giving something of our own, ‘of ourselves’.
Perhaps this is what Rav Baruch Halevi Epstein means, when he says that when we show a smiling countenance to others, we are showing our love and affection for them.

May we always fulfill the injunction of Shamai(אבות א:טו):’Receive each person with a smiling countenance’, thereby showing our love for our fellow man!