Nine Qavim at the Buffet
אמר רב כהנא, “אדם רוצה בקב שלו מתשעה קבים של חבירו.”
Rav Kahanah would say, “A person desires one qav [a unit of volume; roughly 60 fl.oz.] of his own than nine qavim of his friend’s.”
-Bava Metzi’ah 38a
Rav Kahanah’s truism is an aspect of human nature that reflects our being in the “image” of G-d. The Ramchal explains (Derekh Hashem 1:2:1) that we exist in order to receive the ultimate good. However, since the Ultimate Good is the Creator Himself, receiving the ultimate good requires sharing in the task of creating it — in that way, being like Him. (The idea appears in other sources, dating at least as far back as Rav Saadia Gaon’s Emunos veDei’os, but Derekh Hashem is more available and has the more elaborate presentation.) This, the Ramchal explains, is why Hashem created two worlds for us: this world in which we emulate Him and create our reward, and the next world in which we can receive it without the distractions and filters that are a necessary part of this world.
Thus, humanity, made in the Creator’s “image”, enjoys one qav of self-made riches to nine qavim of handout.
The context of Rav Kahanah’s remark is to explain why someone who found someone else’s perishable grain would use his own and allow the other person’s to rot. The mitzvah of returning a lost item isn’t relevant if the item won’t survive long enough to be returned.
However, when we get to a smörgåsbord or qiddush, somehow this isn’t the evidenced behavior. People crowd the table, eat more than they ever would at home — perhaps eating a second helping of chulent while all the while criticizing its quality. Why? Shouldn’t the chulent at home, mishelo, be far more tempting than the chulent at the qiddush — shel chaveiro? Is there an exception to the rule when it comes to free food? But Rav Kahanah’s context was one of grain!
A co worker suggested that perhaps it is because of people’s need to horde food. The food at the qiddush is here now, and gone later. Thus, because mishelo is more desired, he is more loathe to spend it when there is an opportunity to eat mishel chaveiro instead.
But I am wondering if something more fundamental, and more damaging, may not be involved. This greater desire for qav mishelo requires the perspective of someone in the “image” of the Creator. It is uniquely human.
Perhaps the problem is that a “smörg” or a qiddush triggers the animal we (the soul) inhabits. That is why it doesn’t involve a creative being’s love of his own product. The is insane love of free food is simply the animal run amok.