Why give?

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4 Responses

  1. Wonderful, and thank you.

    1. In the first paragraph, when Reb Shimon says that what we have is as stewards, I found it misleading, especially in light of the next excerpt. We have to give maasar, or chomesh. The rest is ours, not as stewards, but ours, to buy Maseratis and alpine granite kitchen counters for our butlers to use.

    2. I don’t understand how you’re explaining ani hashem. If the idea is to love each other out of empathy, because our love for the other is greater than our love for ourselves, which I can understand, how do you see that in ani hashem?

    • micha says:

      Starting with #2, since that clarifies what I would say for #1.

      According to R’ Shimon, aniyei irekha qodmin, R’ Aqiva’s ruling that one doesn’t save another at the expense of onself, etc… self-interest necessary and desired facets of creation. The key to chesed is not loving the other more than ourselves, but loving the other because we realize he is an extension of ourselves. The way we love our children. This is the more famous part of the introduction in question, his take on “Im ein ani li, mi li? Ukeshe’ani le’atzmi, mah ani?” (See the link in the blog post to the intro with my translation for both his discussion of the value of self-interest and for the notion of chessed as extending my “I”.) Just as it’s easiest to do chessed for my children and spouse, then my friends, etc… So too the more I feel connected to my community, the Jewish People, humanity, all of creation, the easier it is to do chessed.

      But it’s a radiation outward. G-d actually wants us to put our own first.

      Hashem gives us things in order to provide to that whole. Again, Knowing which part of that whole He is providing to. Hashem wants to sustain the Jewish People, and therefore what he gives you is for the nation. But He did so in a way that the part of the nation that is most impacted is you and yours for a reason.

      My take on “ani Hashem” was:
      1- It’s from Me for you-as-part-of-the-greater-whole (Im ein ani li) not for you as a disconnected individual (ukeshe’ani le’atzmi)
      2- It is our shared Parent that makes the Jewish People connected as siblings.
      3- Our common Ultimate Purpose unites us as well, and is what that money is for.

      Now, back to #1: Yes, the stewardship thing is overstated, the mashal can’t be taken too far. But given the context, the reader isn’t likely to.

      You asked good but fundamental questions about my blog post. If you can suggest emendations that would make my point clearer, I would appreciate it.

      • Thank you for the explanation. I wish there were something more pure than loving others because they are extensions of our selves, (though I’m perfectly happy to be the object of such love, especially from the Ribono shel Olam,) and less utilitarian than united for a common purpose (though a common purpose that transcends personal desires is great; unfortunately, I can’t grasp it. Oblivion for an ideal is good for other people, but seems excessive for one’s self.)

        • micha says:

          I don’t know if it is an impurity. Some would define love itself as a feeling of connectedness.

          I hear you liking the idea of bitul of the self more than the idea of extending the self. I recommend the essay itself. He argued that it’s beyond human capability, selflessness ends up denying our G-dly urge to be creative, and there is halachic evidence against it as a Torah’s ideal. But R’ Shimon’s is not the only derekh. Bitul is central to many forms of chasidus.

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