Section:  Avodah   Category: Ahavas Yisroel
The Alter Of Kelm Pays A Heavy Price With A Smile
Rav Simcha Zissel (The Alter of Kelm) and another famous Rav were traveling together when they came across an inn.  The proprietor of the inn came running out excitedly screaming "the great Rabbanim are here!"

She led them into the inn and prepared for them a hearty meal.  During the meal she sat with them and recounted to them in great detail about how her fruits were blossoming and the calves were growing, as well the welfare of her ducks and chickens and her onion and potato harvest.  

The other Rov did not pay much attention to her idle chatter and looked into a sefer as she spoke.  The Alter of Kelm on the other hand paid careful attention and interjected from time to time with questions and comments.

When they were about to leave and offered to pay, the hostess refused their payment saying that it was a great honor for her to serve them.   After they left the Alter asked his companion, "Are you not worried about stealing since you ate and did not pay?"  Surprised he reminded the Alter that she refused to let them pay and that the honor was her payment.

"True" said the Alter, "But if you noticed she was flattered by all the attention she received while telling her stories.  This was her payment.  You by not listening did not pay anything!" (Holchei Nesivos - Rav Yitzchok Ovadia)

Surely the Alter of Kelm who was "Kulo Torah" would have gladly paid the price of the meal in order to learn as did his companion.  What he didn't trade for the opportunity to learn a Blatt gemara, was the chance to make another Jew feel important.  For him that was worth the precious time that he spent listening to farm life from another Jew.