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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2008 / 19 Adar I 5768

Self-Respect or Self Pride

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: Our family can't afford bikes for all the kids. A neighbor whose kids are already grown wants to give us theirs, but my dad won't accept them. He says this is self-respect, but I wonder if it is false pride.


A: It is certainly a proper instinct to refrain from accepting gifts. The book of Proverbs (15:27) tells us, "A greedy person corrupts his house, but one who disdains gifts will live". On the basis of this verse, the Shulchan Aruch (authoritative Code of Jewish Law), mentions: It is a mark of piety not to accept gifts, but rather to trust in G-d to provide enough for his needs, as it is written, "One who hates gifts will live". (1)


Likewise, we find the sages of the Talmud using this verse as their basis for declining gifts. Rebbe Elazar in Babylonia refused to accept gifts from the Exilarch (secular authority of Babylonian Jewry), while Rebbe Zeira in Israel refused to accept gifts from the Nasi (Jewish governor). Both cited the above verse, "One who disdains gifts will live." (2)


Yet this is not the whole story. In other places we find that it is proper to accept gifts. We also find the following statement in the Talmud: "All [the promises of] the visions of the prophets refer to one who marries his daughter to a Torah scholar, and who does business with a Torah scholar, and one who gives a Torah scholar to benefit from his possessions." (3) And we find that Rebbe Elazar the son of Rebbe Shimon, one of the greatest sages of the period of the Mishna, who just as his resources were dwindling received a gift from sixty sailors who brought him sixty purses filled with money. (4)


The issue of false pride also arises. Regarding charity, the Shulchan Aruch tells us that normally even a needy person should try to tighten his belt and avoid accepting charity. However, "Anyone who is truly in need and cannot live without aid, such as an old or sick person or one in great suffering, yet affects pride and does not accept, he is guilty of bloodshed and is mortally culpable". (5)


Of course this is an extreme case. But there is also a more relevant example. In a highly instructive story in the Talmud, we find a tense interchange between two of the greatest leaders in Jewish history. One is Rebbe Yehuda the Nasi (governor), who was simultaneously the leading Torah authority in the Jewish world (he was the redactor of the entire Mishna), the leading secular authority (governor), and also one of the wealthiest individuals. The other is Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair, who was famous for his ascetic habits, his burning concern for the welfare of his people, and his zealous personality.


Rebbe Yehuda invited Rebbe Pinchas to dine with him, and the latter refused, causing great consternation to Rebbe Yehuda. Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair saw that Rebbe Yehuda suspected him of declining invitations on principle, and felt obliged to reassure him:


He said to him, do you think I have forsworn benefiting from other Jews? Israel are a holy people! [The problem is that] some people are willing but don't have [means], while others have and don't want [sincerely] to give... You want to and also have [means], however right now I'm in a tremendous rush. (6)


Pinchas ben Yair rushed to deny that he refused to be a guest on principle. The reason he seldom stayed by others was that when poor people invited him he did not want to be an imposition, and when wealthy people invited him he often suspected the invitation was not sincere. However, "Israel are a holy people" and when he was convinced that the invitation came from a sincere person of adequate means he was ready to accept it.


What about the admonition "One who disdains gifts will live"? The leading commentators explain that the "gifts" mentioned in this verse refer to bribes, or gifts that are in the nature of bribes and are meant to affect a person's judgment. In fact, many translations translate the verse "he who hates bribes." Rebbe Elazar and Rebbe Zeira declined to accept gifts from the secular rulers because they were worried that it was meant to compromise their objectivity and align them with the rulers against the people and the scholars. When this concern is missing, as with the great Rabbi Yehuda the Nasi who was renowned for his integrity and scholarship, even Pinchas ben Yair who generally refrained from accepting invitations was fundamentally willing to accept.


The question of how to deal with offers of gifts is a delicate one. There is no question that our first instinct should be to decline -- out of a concern for self-sufficiency, for an unwelcome sense of obligation, or for a gift that may be a financial or social imposition for the giver.


However, as Rebbe Pinchas ben Yair acknowledged, accepting a gift is a way of recognizing the status and beneficence of the giver; refusing one may show that you are unwilling to owe a favor to someone. And of course in many cases the gift itself is welcome and needed. So when you are sure the offer of a gift is sincere, is not a burden to the giver, and is not meant in any way to create an unwelcome obligation, it is not improper to accept a gift.

SOURCES: (1) Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 249:5 (2) Babylonian Talmud, Megilla 28a (3) Babylonian Talmud, Berachos 34b (4) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 84b (5) Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 255:2 (6) Babylonian Talmud, Chullin 7b

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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