Mrs. Alter was one of those old-timers they don't seem to
make anymore. A proud lady who had been brought up in the
East End of London in the hard times after the First World
War, she was telling us how members of the local "Golden Age"
organization called for her every Tuesday afternoon and took
her by special car, as she was handicapped, to a nearby club.
There, she spent a pleasant few hours of activities and after
a nourishing supper, the same car drove her back home.
Of course, the service was free. The "Golden Age"
organization was funded by the local authorities and
basically run by volunteers. But this disturbed Mrs. Alter.
"You know," she told us, "of course, when the car drops me
off at my apartment, I slip a few shillings to the driver."
She paused for a moment. "They give me so much; how can I not
pay something. I don't want to be a chazir."
To these old timers, the word chazir represents the
epitome of something which is totally disgusting. This
revulsion for "something for nothing" is a trait which is
built into every Jew.
The seforim explain that the basic reason why we are
obligated to keep mitzvos and withstand the yetzer
hora is so that we can earn our portion in the World to
Come. If the portion would just be given to us as a free
handout, we would not be able to enjoy it totally because it
would bear the taint of "Bread of Shame" -- bread which we
had not earned through our own effort.
So how do we deal with the avalanche of free gifts, vouchers,
special offers, giveaways, freebies etc. which fall out of
the morning cereal box, come into our letterbox and call to
us from the ads?
Why buy something if you can get it free? Should I refuse the
free gift bundled with the 4-pack? Should I ignore the
Special Offer and purposely buy the regular item at the full
How can I protect my child from the desire for "something for
nothing" which pervades our society? [Or even worse, the
gambling instinct fostered by sending in wrappings in order
to participate in a raffle drawing with a very minimal chance
of winning anything?] If my child comes home with something
and proudly announces, "I got it for nothing!", how should I
As adults, we can bear in mind the cynical phrase, "There is
no such thing as a free lunch!" And in our social- welfare
society, we have paid for many of the "free services" through
taxation. But small children are too young to understand such
Perhaps readers can send in their views of how to deal with
[R' Zobin's address is Panim Meirot 17. Your editor, S.
Weinbach, lives at Panim Meirot 1. We both invite your
comments and ideas.]