"...you shall not send him empty-handed; you shall adorn him with
After six years of servitude, the Torah requires that the
Jewish slave be set free. Additionally, he should not go out empty-handed.
Rather, his master should furnish him with gifts of significant value. What
is the rationale behind obligating a person to give a gift? Clearly, this
is not his compensation, for the Torah requires that the slave be paid in
full up front.
When Avraham returned from Egypt, the Torah records that he
went "according to his travels".1 Chazal teach that Avraham
retraced the path which he had taken during his descent to Egypt, so that
he would be able to lodge at the same inns where he stayed on his way
down.2 What is the notion of a person returning to an
he has previously patronized?
If we analyze the modern-day concept of tipping, we can gain some insight
to assist in answering the aforementioned questions. Why is it the accepted
practice to tip for certain services, while for others it is not? For
example, if a person checks in his luggage curbside, he leaves a tip with
the porter. However, if he checks his luggage in at the counter, he does
not tip the attendant. Similarly, one tips a barber, but not a cashier. The
reason is as follows: When someone does a personal service for us, to a
certain extent, he has been demeaned. It is for personal service,
therefore, that we tip. The tip is the means by which we restore dignity to
the person serving us; it shows our appreciation for what he has done for
An innkeeper offers round-the-clock personal service to his guests.
Avraham Avinu is teaching us that the most effective way to restore the
innkeeper's dignity is to continue to patronize his establishment. This is
the ultimate show of appreciation. The Torah requires that we give parting
gifts to the Jewish slave, since, for six years he has been at our beck and
call, giving us the highest level of personal service that one Jew can give
another. We are obligated, therefore, to restore his dignity.
It is now apparent why the Torah uses what appears to be a very difficult
verb for the giving of a gift. Instead of the more common verb used for
giving, "titein", the Torah uses "ha'aneik", which is not found anywhere
else in the Torah in that form. Rashi explains that the word comes from the
noun "anaka", which means jewelry worn around the neck. When a person wears
jewelry, he feels elevated. It gives him a sense of dignity. This is the
function of the gift which is given to the Jewish slave. We are attempting
to restore the dignity that was lost by his six years of personal service.
1.Bereishis 13:3 2.Arachin 16b
Penniless From Heaven
"for destitute people will not cease from the midst of the land" (15:11)
The Ramban cites the opinion of the Ibn Ezra which says that
the curse of poverty will always remain with Bnei Yisroel, for they will
never completely rid themselves of sin. The Ramban takes issue with this
interpretation, arguing that the Torah would never offer a prophesy which
suggests that Bnei Yisroel will never completely adhere to the precepts of
the Torah. Rather, the Ramban postulates, the Torah is stating that there
may be future generations who will be stricken with poverty, but not that
it is a fait accompli that all future generations of Bnei Yisroel will be
doomed to contend with destitution.1 Other commentaries concur
with the Ibn Ezra, such as the Rashbam who cites the verse in Koheles "ein
tzaddik ba'aretz..." - "there exists no righteous man who accomplishes only
good and does not sin".2 According to these commentaries, it
appears that poverty is a necessary component in the infrastructure of a
society. This notion is also corroborated with the Talmudic interpretation
of the verse which states that poverty will exist even in Messianic
times.3 Why did Hashem create a system which cannot rid itself
The performance of acts of kindness accomplishes two distinctly different
objectives. The universally accepted notion of performing altruistic acts
stems from our societal obligation to ensure that the basic needs of each
individual are met. Our sense of connection to each and every human being
arouses our compassion to make the needs and anguish of others our own. The
word "kindness" itself reflects this social consciousness, stemming from
the word "kindred" - "of our kind".
However, there is another dimension to the performance of acts of
kindness. The very fact that an omnipotent G-d who has no deficiencies or
needs created a world in which man can live, teaches us that creation
itself is the ultimate act of benevolence. Hashem wishes to make man the
beneficiary of His kindness; this is the meaning of the verse " olam chesed
yibaneh" - "the world is built through kindness". Kindness is therefore the
ultimate manner in which Hashem revealed and continues to reveal Himself
to the world.
Emulation is the most effective manner by which we identify and connect to
one another. The premise of the advertising techniques on Madison Avenue is
based upon the creation of an image to which people will want to connect
and emulate; by wearing the clothes or using the products which a famous
film star or sports figure endorse, people feel a closer connection to
them. Consequently, we can connect to Hashem by emulating Him, and the best
manner in which to do so is through the performance of acts of kindness.
Therefore, aside from the kindred spirit we share with our fellow man, we
also connect and identify ourselves with Hashem through acts of kindness.
Poverty is a necessity in every society, for the act of giving is what
elevates a person to become a holy being. Without poverty, we would not be
able to express the G-dliness that we have within ourselves.