Monday, January 13, 2014

Appreciating others for what they do for us or why they do it?

In our discussion of the Chofetz Chaim, the issue of the importance of motivation versus actions was mentioned in regards to the dispute of the Taz and the Sma. The case is one in which an assailant is hitting his victim.  The only way to stop him is to hit the assailant. Is it permitted to hit the assailant in order to save the victim from a beating? The Sema says that if you typically try to help people than it is permitted to hit the assailant to save the victim. But if typically you don't concern yourself with saving victims then it is not permitted because this time you must be motivated by hatred of the assailant and not because of a desire to help the victim. The Taz says it makes no sense that you can't help someone because your motivation is problematic. He says it is always permitted to hit the assailant when that is the only way to save the victim - and it doesn't matter what your motivation is.

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates the following story. There was a man - Reuven who had developed a strong hatred for Shimon. In addition he also bore a grudge against a certain yeshiva bachur. Out of his hatred he developed a plan to exact revenge on both of them. One day he told the bachur, that there was a very distinguished talmid chachom who had a fine daughter and they were interested in him. The bachur checked out the family and it was truly an impressive family and the girl was highly praised - it was much more than he had ever hoped to aspire to. Of course he said yes. Reuven told him that he had arranged everything and gave him a time to go to Shimon's house.

When he knocked and the door, Shimon opened it and was truly puzzled as to why this young man had come to see his daughter. He knew nothing about it. It soon became obvious that Reuven was behind this and that his sole motivation was to embarrass them both. Shimon being a refined individual tried to spare the young man as much shame as possible and invited him in to talk Torah over coffee and cake. As they talked Shimon became greatly impressed with the young man - not only his Torah knowledge but his middos. He decided that was in fact what he had hoped for his daughter and suggested that the young man in fact go out with his daughter.

The relationship progressed extremely well and a short time later they were engaged. 

When Reuven discovered that his evil design had been thwarted, he decided to hide his disappointment and make the best of it. He went to Shimon, wished him mazel tov and then asked him for the shadchan fees.

Shimon was outraged, but being a true talmid chachom - he told Reuven that they should go speak to Rav Zilberstein to decide what was appropriate - since obviously Reuven had no intention of making a shidduch but only causing shame and embarrasment. But on the other hand he had brought about the shidduch.

Rav Zilberstein concluded that Reuven was obviously not the shadchan and thus did not deserve the fee. "G-d made the shidduch not you." He noted that this was comparable to Bilam going to curse the Jews and ending up blessing them. Bilam is not given credit for the blessing but he had not intent to cause benefit only harm.

According to the Taz, why shouldn't Reuven be paid for what he accomplished?

update: My concern is not choshem mishpat but the mida of hakaros hatov. Do they need to show gratitude to Reuven for what happened. It seems clear from Rav Zilberstein that there is no reason to show gratitude. 
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This is a post I made 10 years ago Avodah - Gratitude towards your enemy?

R' Chaim Shmuelevitz [Sichos Mussar II #42 page 117] in his discussion of gratitude mentions Shemos Rabbah (1:32) Moshe is introduced to his future father in law as "an Egyptian"

 [Soncino translation] "alternative explanation of AN EGYPTIAN: Moses can be compared to one bitten by a lizard, who ran to place his feet in the water. When he put them in the river, he observed that a small  child was drowning; so he stretched out his hand and saved him. Thereupon the child said: =91Had it not been for you, I would already have perished.=92 To which the man replied: =91Not I have saved you, but the lizard who bit me and from which I escaped, he saved you.=92 Thus the daughters of Jethro greeted Moses: ' Thanks for saving us from the hand of the shepherds.=92 Moses replied: =91The Egyptian whom I slew, he delivered you.=92 They therefore said to their father AN EGYPTIAN. meaning that the Egyptian whom this man slew caused him to come to us.  "

R' Chaim says that we learn from this that one has an obligation of hakaras hatov based upon the consequence of the action not the motivation. Therefore even though the snake and the Egyptian had not intended good but rather the opposite - the recipient of benefit is obligated to have gratitude towards that which caused the benefit.

The commentaries on this medrash have a simpler explanation. Moshe and the rescuer of the child were merely noting that they should not be  viewed as the source of the good but rather HaShem through His various agents.

Does anybody else have R' Shmuelevitz's understanding of hakaras hatov? While the Chovas HaLevavos does mention that hakaras hatov is not dependent upon the motivation of the source - but here we are talking about one's enemy. It would follow that we need to have hakaras hatov to Amalek etc for causing us to do tshuva.

11 comments :

  1. Mittzvos require intention. Perhaps according to the Taz this only applies to positive commandments. So there was no intention to make a match, no Mitzvah, no fee. But "Not Standing By Idly" is a negative commandment. So the intention is irrelevant in fulfilling the Mitzvah.

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  2. Mittzvos require intention. Perhaps according to the Taz this only applies to positive commandments. So there was no intention to make a match, no Mitzvah, no fee. But "Not Standing By Idly" is a negative commandment. So the intention is irrelevant in fulfilling the Mitzvah.

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  3. Reuven didn't have intent to make a shidduch and (according to Rav Zilberstein's logic) didn't make the shidduch. If someone hits another person to defend himself, regardless of his motives, he achieved the goal of protecting himself.

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  4. Reuven could ask the bachur for shadchan fees (if they agreed so in advance), but not Shimon, since shimon did not mandate him to look for someone. So if he does it out of his volition, he is not entitled to fees. It's as simple as that.

    You cannot fix a price to an action without agreeing to it in advance. Otherwise, that's mafia methods ("hey, friend, I did not burn down your shop, so now you pay me insurance money...".).

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  5. The Chovos HaLevavos in the beginning of Shaar Avodas HaElokim says that Hakaras HaTov is dependent on the intention.

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  6. I think it's a Good קושיא

    One possible difference:

    See חו"מ ס' קפ"ה that a שדכן has a din of a שליח, just like a broker/סרסור. He gets paid based on הלכות שליחות. where his intention was to hurt, no Shlichus contract can be implied, since nobody wants him for that purpose.

    How about לא תעמוד? Does someone need to pay a fellow who saves his life? In יו"ד ס' רנ"ב the Rema paskens that he does if he can afford to & so does the Bais Yosef there. But we don't owe monetary compensation to someone who saves us by tipping us off about our enemy's evil intentions.

    How about the case of the Taz & Semah? עדיין צריך עיון.

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  7. Also, as far as appreciating is concerned - See Chovos Halvovos beginning of שער עבודת אלקים that we need to feel gratitude to parents / employers that do us favors etc. even though they act out of natural instinct and / or self-interest.

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  8. I don't know if last comment posted, repost:

    Also, as far as appreciating is concerned - See Chovos Halvovos beginning of שער עבודת אלקים that we need to feel gratitude to parents / employers that do us favors etc. even though they act out of natural instinct and / or self-interest.

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  9. According to the TazJanuary 13, 2014 at 7:52 PM

    While hitting the assailant although you might speculate his motivation, the same DEED relieves the victim of which is clearly DOING GOOD for him while saving him, and credit is due

    However, Reuven's bad intent was to embarrass BOTH of which is BAD for both through his misdeeds, and accomplished it well. What happened later was strictly due to Shimon's good middos to save face of bochur and Reuven had absolutely no part in it, therefore, he deserves no credit. The same was with Bilam, intention and deed was clearly only bad, it was only Hashem that forced him to utter otherwise, as he said "hadavar asher yosim E' befi oso adaber". Therefore no credit is due to Bilam.

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  10. See the Hakdoma of the Chavas Daas to his Peirush on Megilas Ester called Megilas Starim, where he writes that the reason Ad Delo Yada brings us to say Boruch Haman is because through Haman the Yidden were Mekabel The Torah Berotzon - Kimu Vekiblu.

    Yet we Klopp Haman to destroy his Zeicher, and also a person is not expected to be in a Matzav of Ad Delo Yada all of the time, as it is merely an extreme state of 'High' that a person reaches.

    So I think that we are mixing Halacha with Middos is an incorrect way. Middos is the level of the purity of one's attributes. A person can reach such a level of purity that they feel gratitude even in a case like this. It is a combination of feeling the greatness of the Yeshua and being a person of gratitude. All of this is probably connected to the person's level of Anava. If one does feel this way, to have gratitude even to someone who meant bad, it is in the category of Hakoras Hatov and it is a testimony to the person's Middos Tovos. That doesn't mean that there is an obligation to do so, and certainly not a Halachic obligation. It could even be that the contrary is true. That we have a Halachic obligation to avenge the wickedness as in Amalek - Haman, but still the feeling of Hakoras Hatov, if it can be reached, even if only in a moment of extreme 'High', is good for the soul.

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  11. There is a difference between hakaras hatov and being obliged to pay a service fee. I have the impression that those concepts get mixed up an awful lot on this blog.

    There are moral obligations that are not enforcable, but laudable if respected on one side, and true obligations on the other side. It would do discussions on this blog a lot of good if those concepts were kept apart with some intellectual rigor.

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