Mar Ukva and the pauper
The Talmud (Ketuboth 67b) tells an amazing story that teaches us to what extent a person must go to avoid putting another human being to shame. The Talmud relates that an extremely poor person lived in the neighbourhood of Mar Ukva, one of the Rabbis of the Talmud. The Rabbi would daily leave four coins behind the pauper's door so that the pauper did not know who his benefactor was. In this way, he would not be embarrassed if he met him. However, the pauper was curious to know who was being so kind to him. One day he decided to wait for his benefactor to arrive, so that he could catch him in the act and see who he was. That particular day, says the Talmud, Mar Ukva was late for the study hall and when he delivered the coins he was walking together with his wife. When the pauper saw the coins being delivered, he came out to see who was there. Mar Ukva and his wife sensed that they were being followed so they ran away and jumped into a hot stone oven to hide there. Mar Ukva's feet started to burn on the stones, whereas his wife's feet were unharmed. His wife said to him, "Put your feet on mine" and in this way he was saved from further burns. But Mar Ukva felt bad that this miracle had only happened to his wife and not to him. She explained to him that she merited this miracle because the level of loving kindness of her charity was greater than his. "I am at home and I provide food for the needy to eat immediately. But you give them money and they have to go themselves and buy food." Asks the Talmud, "Why did Mar Ukva and his wife have to run and hide in a hot stone oven?" The Talmud answers, "Because a person should rather let oneself get thrown into a burning furnace than put another person to shame".