Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Giving and Receiving


In our Jewish religion the need of “giving” is mentioned  throughout our learning.  We are reminded that a percentage of a harvest is to be left for poor people; we can read this in the book of “Ruth,” in which  Naomi and Ruth gather up a remnant of the harvest that has been left for the taking. To be a “nadven” is a mitzvah, to give a drink of water to a sick or dying person is a must, especially because the recipient cannot thank us and we are doing it without expecting or receiving anything.  We tithe a certain amount of money to charity.

  Greed has no place in our way of life.  The individual with the “Lef Tov” (good heart) is the person that we admire perhaps more, or at least as much as we do the Talmud Chochem (the scholar).  Giving of oneself is essential in all of human existence.  We do it when we raise children.  We feed, we cuddle, we love.  We forego many pleasurable activities to take care of the helpless infants.  We do the same for the invalid, the sick or the elderly who are unable to manage the essentials of life alone.

Giving for recognition or gratitude cannot be viewed as a “mitzvah.”  There is an old expression which describes this type of deed:  “an die grosse Glocke hangen” to hang the gift, the deed on a large clock for all to see,  in order to be recognized or held in esteem.  The individual who does the kind of giving thus mentioned can sometimes be described as a narcissist, a self lover, or a person who feels the need to be noticed and /or admired.

Giving does not always mean giving material things.  Giving of oneself, giving honors, gratitude, recognizing the good deeds of others, extending emotional support to folk who need it. Accepting what the receiver is able to offer the “nadven” so that he does not always have to feel beholden.  The taker does not want to feel that he is a “schnorrer,” a beggar, taker, a recipient.  All humans have the need to be appreciated for who they are and what “contribution” they make in their world, their abilities, their surroundings. 

If we reduce the person, make them “mevayish”, embarrass them we have taken away their dignity, their “humanness” (humanity).  It is one of the biggest “Neveres” (sins) that we can commit.

As modern Jewish “Menschen” (people) we are fortunate to know that we must not be martyrs.  We must respect ourselves and not permit anti-semites to diminish us.  We are not the scapegoats of the world and we must stand up for our fellow Jews without apologies.  When we agree with our enemies, we perpetuate and agree with the lies and hatreds that we have suffered for centuries.  We have almost psychotic pity with those who would diminish, killand destroy us. Never forget our six million brothers and sisters who were annihilated by the Hitlerian Nazis.  We are not only the people of “the book,” we are able to uphold and defend ourselves and our people from the hatred and ignorance of those who would destroy us. 


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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