Question: Because of the lack of sufficient rain in Israel this past winter there is a serious possibility that water rationing by the government may prevent me from watering my garden or washing my car. I find this difficult to understand since I pay for the water I use. What is the right thing to do?
Answer: There is a famous story about the great ethicist Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. While washing his hands before a meal at a roadside inn he was seen using the minimum amount of water sufficient for this mitzvah. Asked why he did not wash with an abundance of water in order to merit the prosperity promised by our Talmudic Sages for one who does so, he pointed to the maid who was carrying heavy barrels of water from a local well. Using more water to gain a blessing at the expense of the young lady who would have to carry more was something this moral giant refused to consider.
The limitations placed on your use of the limited supply of water for the general public are made out of consideration for everyone who needs water for essentials and you must be prepared to sacrifice comparative luxuries so that you do not enjoy them at another's expense.