One bright morning --
Miss Take met Miss Giving at the local grocery store where
both of them went to buy their daily supply of bread and
"I'm in such a hurry this morning," said Miss Take. "Can I
take your place in line at the checkout counter?"
"Well, I'm in a hurry, too, but I will gladly let you go
ahead of me," replied Miss Giving.
"Are you sure you are not making a mistake," asked Miss Take,
"in giving up your place when you are in a hurry?"
"I assure you I have no misgivings," replied Miss Giving,
"because it is always better to give than to take."
This imaginary dialogue reflects the division in human
society between the givers and the takers. In his classic
treatise on chessed, R' Eliyohu Dessler zt'l
elaborates on this division and cites a Midrash which
illustrates the difference between those who think in terms
of giving and those whose thoughts are dedicated only to
Alexander of Macedonia once visited the king of some remote
land to study its system of justice. Two litigants came
before the king. One of them had purchased a rundown field
from the other and had discovered a buried treasure. The
buyer insisted that he had bought only the land so that the
treasure belonged to the seller. The seller, however, argued
that he had sold the field and everything in it, so that the
treasure rightfully belonged to the buyer.
The king asked the two if they had children and when he
learned that one had a son and the other a daughter, he
ordered the two to arrange a marriage between their children
and to give them the treasure. Noticing his visitor's
surprise at this ruling, the king asked Alexander what he
would have ruled in such a case.
"We would have executed both and appropriated the treasure
for the throne," came the pragmatic reply.
This is the difference, concludes R' Dessler, between the
king of givers and the king of takers.
A modern version of the giver approach is related in
"Oleinu Leshabeiach" by R' Yitzchok Zilberstein
shlita, rabbi of the Ramat Elchonon community in Bnei
Two Jews were in the final stage of a business deal conducted
in the lobby of a hotel. To conclude the deal, the
prospective buyer had placed a large wad of dollar bills on
the table, to be handed over as soon as an agreement was
signed. Just then, there came an announcement on the P.A.
system that the hotel must be evacuated immediately due to
the discovery of an object suspected of being a terrorist
bomb. In his haste to run for his life, this fellow left the
money on the table but when he returned, it was gone and all
the attempts of the police to find the thief were of no
A day later, another Jew who had heard of the incident
visited the lobby of that hotel and noticed a large flower
pot standing in a slightly tilted position. When he walked
over to investigate, he saw a dollar bill sticking out and
when he came even closer, he discovered that this was the
place where the thief had concealed the stolen money.
After tracking down the victim of the theft and informing him
of the good news, he was surprised to hear that the latter
had already despaired of recovering the money. Therefore, he
insisted, it was the property of the finder. The finder
stubbornly insisted that the money belonged to its original
owner but he hit on an idea of how to break this bizarre
"Do you have a son?" he asked. "Yes," said the other, "and
he's waiting for me in the car downstairs." "Well," continued
the finder, "I have a daughter, so how about introducing them
to one another?"
This brilliant solution eventually led to a successful
shidduch, with the disputed money given to the young
couple to establish their home.
Another perspective of the "give and take" is offered by R'
Isaac Sher zt'l, the Rosh Hayeshiva of the Slobodka
Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. The gemora discusses one who
insists on someone accepting a gift for his son because he
refuses to be a `dog' who only receives gifts but does not
reciprocate. It, likewise, discusses one who insists that the
other fellow make a gift to his son to reciprocate for gifts
he had given to him in the past because he refuses to be a
`king' who only gives and does not take.
Why is the dog characterized as being only a taker when we
are aware that this animal not only eats his master's food
but serves him as well as a protector? And why is the king
portrayed only as a giver, when he takes from his subjects as
well as leading them?
The answer, explains R' Sher, is the difference in the prime
motivation of each. The dog is interested primarily in taking
food from his master and serves him only in order to win his
support. The righteous king, on the other hand, is interested
in serving his subjects and takes taxes from them only so
that he will be able to provide the necessary services.
The moral of all these stories is not to have any misgivings
about giving and to avoid making mistakes about taking.