Home Subscribe Services Support Us
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Free Gifts

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

...take a gift for the Viceroy – a little balm, a little honey, gum resin, pistachio nuts and almonds. (Bereshith 43:11)

The nature of a gift is determined by the sender, the receiver, and the occasion. As Viceroy of Egypt, Yosef was one of the most famous people in the world – after all, his idea had saved everyone from starvation. Obviously he would not be influenced by money, so an expensive gift was not necessary. A small gift of choice items was appropriate.1

Today a gift is generally viewed as a “nice gesture,” but this was not always the case. During the time of the Gemara it was customary for a wedding guest to send money to the family making the wedding to help defray the costs. This money was termed “Shoshbinayoth,” and was not altogether a “gift.” The recipient was obligated to give back the same amount if the giver in turn invited him to a wedding. This custom was so firmly established that if the recipient did not reciprocate in kind, he could be called to beith din.2 Nowadays we have no such custom; nevertheless it is proper for a guest to give a wedding gift.3

Reuven, who had a daughter, would often send gifts to Shimon, who had a son. Shimon feared that perhaps Reuven had a shidduch (match) in mind, and this was his reason for sending the gifts. Shimon was not interested in the match, and he discussed the matter of the gifts with a Rav. The Rav said that since Shimon was poor, perhaps Reuven’s intention was merely to help him out, in which case he was permitted to keep the presents. However, if Reuven ever asked Shimon about his son, Shimon must tell him that he would not permit a match between their children, and he must not allow Reuven to think that he is considering the idea, for that would constitute deceit.4

If we receive a book in the mail, are we obligated to return it, or is the book considered a gift? The answer depends on who the sender was. If the book was sent by a publisher or organization with a request that we buy it, then we are not obligated to send it back, nor are we required to send a donation. Paying for the postage and returning the book may be commendable, but it is considered beyond the letter of the law. If we choose not to return the book, however, we may not use it without paying for it. If a year has passed from the time we were sent the book, and there was no communication from the sender during that time, we may assume that the sender will no longer claim the book, and we may consider it ours and make use of it. If, on the other hand, it was the author himself who sent the book, we can assume that it is a gift, and that the author sent it in the hope that the recipient would send a donation in return. In this case we may use it immediately, even if we have no intention of sending a donation.5


1 Seforno on Bereshith 43:11.
2 Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 60.
3 Heard from Rav Zvi Spitz.
4 Sefer Chasidim, 513.
5 Rav S. Wagschal, Torah Guide to Money Matters, pp. 5-6.

Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and



View Complete List

Everyday Miracles
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Home Alone: The Original
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5762

Judging Favorably
Shlomo Katz - 5775


Our Spiritual Inheritance
Rabbi Yosef Kalatsky - 5763

Yesod HaOlam
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

Suffering and Tohu
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

> 'Mehadrin' - An Understanding of the Concept
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

A Blessed Business
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

To Fergin or Forget
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

A Peaceful Retirement
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Basic Concepts and Laws
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5761

Thanks for What?
Shlomo Katz - 5774

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Yehuda, Yosef and Chanukah
Shlomo Katz - 5763

A Dreamer Meets Reality
- 5768

Of Grapes and Pastries
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Tainted Intent
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5762

Project Genesis Home

Torah Portion

Jewish Law



Learn the Basics




Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base


About Us

Contact Us

Free Book on Geulah! Home Copyright Information