Selfish Contradictions


Moshe Ben-Chaim



This week, Mesora was once again contacted by an organization seeking our assistance. Once prior, a large, Jewish organization asked that we publicize them on At first, recognizing this organization by name, I happily agreed, asking them to reciprocate the exact favor. They responded, “We have a policy not to advertise other organizations on our website.” I replied, “If you ask us to do – that which you yourself will not perform – then I cannot deem you worthy of our support. I cannot support an organization that desires favors, and is unwilling to reciprocate in kind, this is not Torah-abiding behavior.” Torah demands the “reciprocation of good”, “Hakaras Hatove”. I am very much disappointed that “Torah abiding” organizations act so selfishly, contradictory, and when faced with their contradiction, continue their twisted and unappreciative greed.


This week was no different: a business phoned us, asking if they could inquire about “eight questions”. These questions were not Torah questions, to which I always take time and respond without ulterior motive or any condition. If we can educate another Jew or Gentile on Torah ideas, we must do so, and be happy to do so…we are helping them in the greatest area! But today, the questions were secular in nature, as he explained, “These questions would help my organization develop art classes throughout the United States”. My response was, “Do you charge attendees for your classes?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Then it would be consistent with your very practice that we should be equally deserving, and charge YOU, since the very information you receive from us, is something for which you charge others.” He laughed, paused, hesitated…then tried to sidestep my critique by commencing with his first of eight questions. I stopped him and said again, “Do you feel we should charge you for our information, as this is your very method, that you charge others for information?”


He finally saw the point, still laughing or mocking my critique, but this time, I think his laugh did not suppress his realization. He felt he was in a contradiction. I then told him, “Regarding anyone else you call for this purpose, you should not try to ‘get’, without ‘giving’.” The phone called was over.


How many times do WE do the same thing: seeking self-gain, and showing no equal concern for another person? Maimonides teaches that when we do business, we must insure that the deal we wish to strike, is no more beneficial for us, than for our partner in that deal. I feel many more deals and greater success will be realized if we follow Maimonides’ teaching. We won’t allow our greed and Torah violation of selfishness to destroy possible transactions. We will engender a greater harmony between all mankind, when they see we honestly wish their equal success. How many businessmen do you know of who are on this level? Does not each businessman seek the better part of the deal, trying to obtain the price best for himself, and not what is best for “both” parties? Do terms like, “shrewd” and “cut-throat” come to mind when thinking of some businessmen? And isn’t it the greatest “Chillul Hashem” (disgrace of God) when Jews are found guilty of crooked practices?


The two cases, I hope, will awaken a sense of “right” in all of us who require such admonition.


Genesis, 18:19: “For I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the way of God to do charity and justice.”