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Friday, 1 May 2015

Remembering Kindness

Daf Yomi Kesubos 87

A friend of mine was an incredible pulpit rabbi who was dedicated to being there and helping his congregants 24/7.  There was one congregant who he felt he had always gone the extra mile for – he even travelled overseas to pay him a shivah visit!

Then the day arrived for his contract renewal a few years later.  This gentleman that he’d always been there for was the deciding vote on the board: the rabbi’s contract would not be renewed.   He was devastated – he’d dropped everything for this person, he’d spent thousands of dollars out of his own pocket and suddenly, he just wasn’t “dynamic” enough for the congregation!  Thank G-d, today he’s a successful businessman, but I believe it’s a huge loss to Klal Yisrael.

The Mishnah states: If a woman taints her ketubah, it should only be paid out with an oath.  What is the meaning of ‘tainting the ketubah’?  If her ketubah was worth a thousand zuz and the husband says, ‘You received the ketubah entitlement,’ and she replies, ‘I only received one hundred,’ it is only paid out with an oath from her (that she is still owed nine hundred).

Rava taught: This oath is a rabbinic enactment.  The one who is paying always pays attention.  The one who is getting paid, does not always pay attention.  The rabbis therefore imposed an oath upon her so that she will pay closer attention. 

This business of only the payor remembering exactly what took place is true not only of financial transactions, but gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness) as well.  When you pay someone a favour or do them a kindness, you are keenly aware of what you’ve done and chances are, you won’t forget it anytime soon.  The recipient, however, will generally acknowledge your kindness at the time, but it doesn’t take them long to forget what you’ve done for them.

Politicians running for reelection are acutely aware of this sad side of human nature.  One politician friend who brought substantial grant money into his community to build a new park went door knocking on the campaign trail. 
‘Yes, I know you helped fund the park a couple of years back.  But what have you done for us lately?’ came one response.  Unfortunately, some recipients of kindness have terribly short memories.

But if you’re aware of this pitfall described by the Talmud, you can avoid falling into the trap!  Never forget those who have been kind to you in life.  Keep a constant mental log (or written log, if you need) of all the wonderful things people have done for you in life on a day-to-day basis; and more particularly, the big kindnesses that have brought you to this point in your life and made you who you are!   Call them out of the blue and thank them.  Update them on how things have played out in your life.  They’ve played a major or minor role, don’t ever forget your eternal gratitude!

It’s easy for the payee to forget how much they’ve been paid.  Just like the oath the Rabbis of the Talmud administered, make a commitment to yourself to pay attention to remembering those who have been good to you.  May you merit lifelong gratitude and never forgetting those who have made you who you are!