click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Join 400,000 Aish subscribers
Get Email Updates




Giving Without Recognition

I try to be helpful and considerate of others. But why is it that when someone helps others, they don't always get paid back when they need help, too?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I once asked a great rabbi: "What if I keep giving to someone, and they don't reciprocate? What should I do?"

"Just keep giving to them," he explained. "Relish your role as a provider. Send out the constant message – 'I care for you.' Eventually, they will wake up one day and realize – 'My gosh, I have a wonderful friend here who treats me like a king. I ought to start doing the same in return!'"

On the other hand, you have to know your own limits and be careful not to reach a point where you become neurotic and resentful. Then the giving becomes a negative, destructive act.

A good way to exercise your "giving muscles" is to give to others anonymously. This way, you reduce your dependency on recognition and reciprocation.

There is a famous story called "The Miser of Krakow," which takes place in 17th century Poland.

The richest Jew in Krakow was known to be a miser. Whenever someone would be in dire straits and in need of money, they would go to the Miser's house crying, asking for money. But he never gave even a penny. This pattern repeated itself for many years.

When the Miser died, he was buried in a small corner of the cemetery, a place reserved for shady characters.

When Friday came along, something strange happened. Early in the morning a poor man came knocking at the rabbi's door. "Every Friday I receive an unmarked envelope in my mailbox, containing enough money to buy food for Shabbat," the man explained. “But this week, nothing arrived." The rabbi gave the man a bit of money and sent him on his way.

A few minutes later, another man came knocking on the rabbi's door. Same story. Again and again, one by one, all the poor people of the town came with the same story: This week, their anonymous envelope did not arrive – for the first time in years.

Finally, the rabbi realized who had been secretly supporting the entire town all these years. The Miser never told anyone about his philanthropy because he didn't want anyone to feel like they owed him.

The rabbi instructed his family that when he dies, he wants to be buried right next to the holy Miser of Krakow. Until today, a visit to the old Krakow cemetery shows the rabbi and the miser, buried together in a small corner of the cemetery.

From this story we learn that when we do something good for a person, even if they don't pay us back – don't worry! God is watches everything we do, and makes sure we get the proper reward.

More Questions

Ask the Aish Rabbi a Question


Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
Sign up today!