May 20, 2024
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Dr. John Gottman, the world-renowned psychologist and relationship expert, stresses that there are certain tell-tale signs of a struggling relationship. Gottman explains that if a conversation begins with a “harsh startup,” a quarrel will, in almost all cases, be inevitable. If a spouse begins to communicate to his/her partner with criticism or sarcasm, the potential conversation is doomed. Gottman’s theory can be applied to other interactions and relationships as well. When Avraham invited the angels into his tent at the beginning of our parsha, he encouraged them to “take” some water and bread. Regarding the water, Avraham used the word “yukach,” and concerning the bread that he wished for them to indulge in, the word “v’ekcha” is used. The root of both of the words used means “to take.”

Why would that relatively harsh language be used in a request of Avraham’s guests, as opposed to a softer term such as “let me give you”? The Bais Yisroel, zt”l, answers, based on the Midrash, that when one is the “giver” of charity, one is actually taking more than they are giving. Becoming a giving person fine-tunes us as human beings. We are not only rewarded by Hashem for caring for those in need, but we are improving who we are as people. The Midrash therefore explains that the needy person is actually benefiting us more than we are benefiting them. It is for this reason that the word meaning “take” is used, as the one who gives is really “taking” the mitzvah from the needy person who in effect becomes the giver.

The lesson of giving applies to our relationships as it does to the mitzvah of tzedaka. When we are givers in our relationships, we become valued partners whose very essence becomes polished and refined by our interactions. May we all merit to be givers and takers in multiple facets of our lives.

By Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler

 Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler is rabbi of Congregation AABJ&D in West Orange, NJ, and is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. Rabbi Zwickler can be reached at [email protected].

 

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