| A Gift Passed Along |

Givers, Not Takers

Life is like one big game of I Spy, looking for people who need a ride, directions, or help

Every family has a “bumper sticker,” some motto or routine with which they build and educate. When my kids were young, we would dance whenever a neighbor asked to borrow any small item. Of all the doors in the building, we were the ones chosen to do this chesed!

R’ Matisyahu Salamon, in Matnat Chayim, points out that the shortest line in Avinu Malkenu is one of the most powerful ones: Avinu Malkenu Katvenu Bsefer Zechoyout. We are asking Hashem that we be written for opportunities to do mitzvos – if there is a mitzvah to be done, we ask that we be chosen to do it. This idea is the gift that I wish to bequeath to future generations: that doing a mitzvah is a zechus, a precious opportunity, not a burden to try to avoid.

R’ Aharon Kotler, in Mishnas Rabi Aharon, offers a second idea that is part of this construct. He explains that the way one accentuates their tzelem Elokim is by being a giver. The way to “cling to Hashem” is to follow in His ways; chief among them is the attribute of chesed. So whenever any of my children’s teachers would ask the students to bring in an extra item the next day, like an apron or a rolling pin, I would always send my child with an extra one. “Look around,” I emphasized to them, “see which classmate forgot to bring one, and lend them the extra one.” Life is like one big game of I Spy, looking for people who need a ride, directions, or help. Being the person who helps others turns you into a giver.


When my eldest daughter was in eighth grade, she asked me to drive her to a candy and gift store so she could buy a gift for her friend who was taking a high school entrance exam the following day. I drove here there and then waited in the car for a very long time while she made the purchase. I was rather frustrated at the enormous waste of time. “I don’t know why you invested so much in this gift,” I told my daughter. “She’s not going to give you anything in return.”

“Ima,” my daughter responded, “didn’t you teach me that the point of life is to give and to make others happy?”

Rebbetzin Shira Smiles is an international lecturer, menchaneches in Darchei Bina, and author of Torah Tapestries, a five-volume series on the weekly parshah.

(Originally featured in A Gift Passed Along, Special Supplement: Pesach 5780)

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