The Matzav Shmoooze: Burned By Chessed


chesedDear readers,

One of the things most people aim for is increasing the amount of chessed they do. However, many people, such as your struly, have gotten ‘burned’ too many times when we do chassodim for other people.

The following are a few incidents that I experienced recently.

1. I offered to give a ride to someone’s children, as I was going away for Shabbos. First I offered to pick up the children on my way to the highway, but the people said they would drop the children off at my home. They arrived twenty five minutes after the time I had told them I was leaving. Rather than apologizing profusely, they said, “Oh, sorry. You know, buses come late too.” (I had to be at my destination on time to pick something up before the store would be closed.)

2. I lent an article of clothing to a friend of mine to wear at a chasunah. The garment was returned to me creased and soiled. (I thought it was obvious that if the garment got dirty, that they would have it dry-cleaned.)

3. I was going shopping and offered to pick something up for my friend from the store. I have still yet to receive payment for the item I bought for my friend. (It has been over four months!)

4. Countless times I have brought packages with me when I go away for Shabbos,

and somehow I always end up dropping off the item by the person’s home, rather than it being picked up from my home. (Ironically, this is actually better than the alternative, because whenever the people say that they’ll pick up the item from my home, I end up being tied down and they usually come much later than they said they would.)

5. My neighbor needed to go away and asked if I would be able to watch her two children for an hour. I readily agreed as we had done each other similar favors before. However, two consecutive times, she came back over an hour and a half later than she had told me, and I was stuck with her kids in my house, when I wanted to serve my children supper! She never apologized, but quickly thanked me for watching her kids

These stories are only the tip of the iceberg and most people can associate with one of them. Some people will say that I am too cynical, but many, I believe, have been in similar situations. Unfortunately, what happens all too often is that people decide that no longer will they allow others to take advantage of them. They are more hesitant to offer someone a ride, pick something up, or lend out clothing or other items.

People must be more cognizant of the fact that when a favor is being done for them, all that is expected is some common courtesy and decency.

Thank you for making this forum available for people to express their thoughts. 


T. B.


The Matzav Shmoooze is a regular feature on that allows all readers to share a thought or analysis, long or short, one sentence or several paragraphs long, on any topic, for readers to mull over and comment on. Email submissions to

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  1. Not preaching here, as I am far from perfect, but this differentiates Yiddish Chesed from Goyish mercy. Avrohom Aveinu instilled chesed in us after he recognized how HKBH gives people life health and wealth even when they are doing the opposite of what HE commands. It’s easy to do chesed for someone who is thankful and reciprocal. These instances you mentioned are where you really stand out and grow, when you still enjoy doing chesed where it gets difficult.

    That’s not to say you should always let yourself be taken advantage of. Don’t assume the dry cleaning will be paid if it’s ‘maisa machmas melacha’. If you absolutely need to have something done by a certain time, spell it out before and after, but the Torah specifically tells us Lo Sikom and Lo Sitor. We don’t do chesed because it makes us feel better, we do it in order to be G-dly, Mah Hu Af Attah – we are to emulate HKBH. If we can do that we are fortunate indeed.

    It’s beautiful to see all the chesed you’ve done, please keep it up.

  2. You are right. Your reward is great, as a Mitzvah with tzar is equivalent to 100 without.

    If it bothers you, you may want to set guidlines and limits, and stick to them.

  3. The letter written is very appropriate. While most people who receive chesed don’t “intentionally” do these things, they nevertheless do them.

    The Peleh Yo’etz authored by the Sfardishe Gaon Harav Eliezer Papo ZT”L has a seperate section on doing chesed with people and another section on how the recipients of chesed should act and behave so that they do not cause others to never again want to do chesed.

    People continue to do chesed and those who receive it TAKE HEED.

  4. it is so beautiful tham you are able to be there for others. Please know that the fact that you are able to be the giver and that your freinds and neighbors know that it is to you whom they can turn to in a time of need, is truly a brocha from Hashem.
    While it is true that you should not be made to feel “used” or taken advantage of, but that may be remedied by sweetly commenting to your friend that you are more than happy to lend clothing but it needs to come back professionally dry cleaned so that the next borrower or user will get it in the same condition that they received it in. Your friend who asks you to watch the kids can be told that you are happy to help but that they need to be timely so that you can get to your other activities on time.

    in short, better communication is needed. Overall though, it needs to be clear to you that the tru value and appreciation of the chesed that you do is only truly recognized where it most counts, IN Shamayim

  5. Unfortunately their is a strong “es kimt mir” attitude that is very pervasive in our community. You are should thank them for the honor of doing them a favor. And if their the favor you are doing inconveniances you nuch besser! They are providing you an even bigger oppurtunity for chesed.
    To illustrate just how pervasive this problem is look at comments 1, 2 and 4 (and I am sure more will follow)

  6. I think we have all been there, done that. But I think the true chessed really lies in how we react when it doesn’t go so smoothly. It’s easy to do a chessed that is smoothe and assured a good outcome….or uncomplicated ones..but I think the true test of “my” character is when it gets messed up and I don’t react… me…my list is from here to eternity…
    And that, my dear friends, is part of chessed.
    You can’t count on changing your friends. You can only count on changing yourselves. And if you are not ready to take the plunge, and we all know it’s not exactly the way we want it to be….then stay away. Chessed is complete and without questions.
    The fact that they acted in a way that does not show gratitude or careless….is their issue…Yes it may be your loss…and that’s part of doing the mitzva.
    In any case, if you lose out…at least you lost out to a mitzva and not something else.

  7. Yankel:

    Unfortunately there is a strong desire by some in our community to feel good by knocking others. To illustrate how prevelent this problem is Health, just look at #9.

    The letter-writer has a very valid point, and is being offered ways to deal with it, without dumping the baby with the bathwater. I don’t think you have a valid point.

  8. Someone once asked me to watch their kids for a few hours. Turned into a few days (really, no kidding). What helped me deal with it was that (besides that I was away most of the day) he was my BROTHER!
    We are all brothers and sisters. Let’s help if we can, and communicate our issues. Have you mentioned to your friend that they owe you money, or are you just going to stew about it? (Issues 2-3).
    I once had a good friend stay our house during our vacation. Anyway they turned on the AC and forgot to turn it off, so it ran our whole vacation and the bill was substancial. Our rav advised that we ask them to reimburse us. And he was right. There are no hard feelings between us. Point is, don’t just stew and write Matzav about it, communicate directly

  9. Did you ever hear of “Lifum Tzara Aagrah”? If Chesed was so easy you wouldn’t get rewarded. There are always going to be inconsiderate jerks! Get over it and stop complaining!

  10. I had just completed my first year of marriage when I was approached in shul by a 50 year old in the community, double my age, to borrow $1,000 for “less than a week”. I told him that I’m far from a person of means, but I can lend him $500, as I needed the balance in my account to pay that month’s rent. I didn’t have my checkbook on me, so I went to pick up a check from my wife and then I returned with the check.

    Six months and countless phone calls later, I gave up on ever seeing the money again. I guess it was tzedoko to that fellow with the long beard who was in need of the money more than I. But I’ve learned my lesson.

    By the way, when I take a loan, I always insist that the lender take a mashkon from me of valuables (silver or gold), that the lender should have peace of mind.

  11. We do chessed because we “imitate” Hashem in His midah of chessed. Just as Hashem does chessed without expecting anything in return, so should we. If Hashem has thrown “HIS type” of chessed at your doorstep it is an opportunity to live up to a higher standard and and loftier level and it shouild be embraced with excitement and simcha rather than regret and resentment.
    ???? ??? ???? We build the world and build worlds with “Hashem quality” of chessed. If Hashem is sending you this type it shows Hashem believes that
    1- You can do it
    2- Maybe you need this zechus.
    I can go on but this is a note not a shiur!
    Hatzlacha in building!

  12. Very good point.

    First, I would like to be dan l’kaf zechus. Perhaps those individuals who were on the receiving end to your chessed didn’t realize that it was inconveniencing you in any way! #1 may not have known you needed to get to a store before it closed; #2 may not have had the means or mindset (it was after a chasuna after all!) to dry-clean; #3 may have forgotten about paying you; and so on and so forth.

    As comment number 6 pointed out, communication is key. (In a marriage, your spouse will never know what you are angry about unless you tell him/her).

    However, I would like to point out that we are still in galus because we never properly atoned for sinaas chinam. Ahavas Yisrael means looking beyond ourselves and our own personal needs, and caring about the needs of others because they have value as well. And this means that in addition to being givers, we must also become gracious receivers. If someone is doing me a favor, I need to make it as convenient for them as possible!

    We live in a day and age where we get caught up with our own lives and don’t care about how our actions affect other people. The summer is coming up, and will we once again clog the streets of Monticello because we *must* speak with our friend who is passing in the opposite direction? Well, what about all the other cars on the road who need to get places, too! If someone picks up an item for you, pay him back as soon as possible. If someone gives you a ride, make sure to be there on time, and even offer to pay for some of the gas!

    Our striving to see beyond ourselves and becoming more gracious receivers, should be a zechus to bring mashiach bimheira biyameinu.

  13. People tend to see things from their own point of view only-they figure what’s an hour for extra babysitting-to them that hour is a minute, what’s 20 minutes-you have the car-I have seen people on the phone saying i have to go because i promised to meet someone, and i never come late, as they are obviously going to be late, not realizing that they are double speaking-mind boggling –
    from the chesed doer point of view, realize if you are doing a chesed you have to expect this kind of abuse-i truly believe that the satan can’t stand the chesed doing, and makes it his little game to get you to the point where you tear your hair out, and say-that’s it -no more! There is really no answer, because as soon as i would advise you to be firm with the passenger, and say i am really in a rush, so please be here 15 minutes early, there will be a new situation that will be beyond your belief. Ask around, everyone will have a one better story. So, do chesed, smile, and thumb your nose at the satan.
    No, this does NOT excuse the chesed recipient-it is a lack of awareness, a lack of hakaras hatov, bad middos, and if you don’t make an effort to improve, it can overflow into every area of your life.

  14. Hashem continues to do Chesed with us, even though we all too often don’t show enbough appreciation for all He does, or even “reject him” over and over again.

    Yet, He continues to love and care for us.

    Not to excuse any of these ungrateful people, but NEVER consider stopping to do Chesed.

    Doing Chesed is emulating Hashe. Period.

  15. Sometimes we can do chesed for someone and be repaid in seriously negative ways. The examples given here are annoying, but pale in comparison to real harm that can be returned for a favor. it’s a mitzvah, for instance, to show chesed to a widow. But what happens when the recipient is jealous and returns the good with harm and serious damage? I believe doing chesed is what H-shem wants of us, but we have to protect ourselves also.

  16. My upbringing did not revolve around doing chessed.

    In fact “chessed” was not an “object” at all.

    It was just something you did naturally.

    Given that, perhaps dear readers, you may understand my revulsion at the attitude of “do-ers of chessed”, that they have carved another notch in their “mitzva belt”, or that they have stepped up another rung in the ladder of kedusha.

    Chessed is not a noun. Chessed is a verb that is intangible in its function. Avrohom Avinu was upset that it was too hot for guests, thus depriving him of “something”? Or was he uncomfortable spending a day (or days) without serving an active function in his world? Did he feed the desert nomads for his own benefit, or for the benefit of the nomads (having them bless The Provider)?

    Now, please, count how many times the word “I” appears in the article, and in some of the comments.

    If you are doing a mitzva (or a favor, a toyvah a yidden) for the other person (and not for your own scorecard) you will be much more sensitive as to whom, and when, this should be done, and as to how to package it for a questionable recipient. You can “sniff out” those who feel that are offering you an opportunity to do chesssd.

    And if you make a mistake of judgment, and are burned or singed, by tomorrow it would be like the discomforts of last years snowstorms.

    The “I” in the transaction should be transparent.

  17. Der Zeide Reb Chatzkel Levenshtein said that the ultimate form of chesed is when you do such a good job, that the recipient feels that they are the ones who did YOU the favor!
    Something to aspire to…

  18. Most of the above comments can be distilled into this:
    “We should all demand chessed from others, and abuse them in the process. That way, we are helping them become big tzaddikim.”
    Seriously,(Yankel excepted) most of you are living upside down.

  19. If someone does a chessed and winds up resenting it, would it have been better had he not done the chessed at all? After all giving to another is supposed to bring them closer not drive a wedge between them. On the other hand, anything done by a Yid bein odom lechaveiro is valuable regardless of the intention.

  20. poster 15 has it right. Why do chesed? Cuz we are commanded — not for the thank you. My father taught me long ago that most times those you do favors for will hurt you the most. No one likes being indebted and they’ll resent those who do for them. The daled of the alef-bes has its back to the gimmel. Daled is the poor man and gimmel is the gemol-the doing of chesed and giving of tzedaka. We learn that Daled ignores Gimmel, that the recipient doesn’t like to have to be indebetd to those giving. This doesn’t excuse the recipients of being mentschen. But it is a fact of the world.
    You have to ask yourself what the writer of this post was doing when doing chesed, trying to look like a good person, or trying to emulate Hashem. And as other posters noted, Hashem does Chesed, do we act like Mentschen about it? As Pirkei Avos said this past week, “Echad Haloveh…” we get loaned a soul, do we return it back in pristine state?
    The story of Rav Herman when his guest dumped cholent on him one Shabbos afternoon perhaps captures the best the essence of chesed. It is not about you the giver getting awards and thanks. It is about you the giver going beyond your comfort zone to make someone else feel wonderful and loved.
    And for those with horror stories of loans and returned dirty clothing, for THAT there is halacha — and we don’t have to turn the other cheek — we can make sure it is repaid k’halacha.

  21. Riboine shel Oylem!!
    All the above tales of ungrateful recipients of Chessed truly point out how far we have to go in becoming an AM KADOSH. All of the writers who defend these users are very warped. There is NO way to justify any of these behaviors. Shame on such people!!

  22. It is always good to be dan l’chaf z’chus. However, there is a line that needs to be drawn between Chessed and dysfunction which involves people taking advantage of kindness. Unfortunately it exists. Enabling someone to continue to act in a way which infringes on others is not always a Chessed. Indeed, you can be burned when the recipient does not behave appropriately and there are guidelines to follow. There is a sefer, I believe, written by a Rabbi Castle on the nuances involved in Bein Adam L’Chaveiro. B’Hatzlacha!

  23. It is not a chesed to cater to people who are oblivious of their actions, or worse, inconsiderate, disorganized or incompetent. Unless there are certain special circumstances, people who take advantage of those who do chesed would be better served if everyone would not give in to them, but rather teach them that they have to fend for themselves and learn that taking advantage of others is not tolerated. Of course, obviously, a one time difficult situation can happen to the best of us. Common sense is in order here. But if you see that it is the same people over and over who take advantage of the Chesed doers, it is NOT a chesed, nor is it a favor for them to indulge them. It is also worthwhile for parents to be mechanech their children (and themselves too) to be alert and aware how their actions can inconvenience others. Some people are just oblivious (for example- chronic late comers who cause others to always have to wait for them). Obliviousness borders on rudeness and inconsideration. Obviously being dan lkaf zchus is a good thing, but too much dan Lkaf zchus can encourage inconsiderate behavior. There’s nothing wrong with trying to correct and work on weaknesses.

  24. Agree with number 28. It the “cheesed” that you wish to offer causes you tzuris in your own life, you need to find another way to do chesed. Perhaps giving to charities instead of offering your personal services might be in order. You must realize that whenever you offer to coordinate an event with other people that you are at their mercy as well so that if you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you may not be able to do that once you commit to assisting someone else in their plans as well. But that said, I am sure that you will be rewarded accordingly in the world to come fo your efforts and that true chesed does not concern itself with your own losses or your own situation.

  25. The guy who lent someone money — you are a fool for not getting an IOU that names a rabbi to go in case of dispute later. I have heard tons of stories of frum people “borrowing” money and then not paying it back. Only lend to people you trust, or else write it off right away as tzedaka.
    If you promise someone a ride and you need to leave on time, Tell them before, I need to pull out at 2 pm for a critical meeting. So if you are there by even 2:01, you will have missed the ride. If you really need the ride, please be there by 10 minutes before. sorry to be yekkish, but this is my offer.
    Stop trashing the writer, yes, he wants to do chesed, and people shouldn’t be disgusting to him!

  26. I only do things that are easy for me to do-contrary to popular opinion. I feel if everyone just does things that are easy for them- since different people find different things easy-all bases will be covered.

    With hindsight, you may need to set limits or hint. For repayment of a purchased pickup- you might say- “the receipt is in the bag” or I have the receipt right here. I would only lay out the money if the purchase price was small- otherwise I would ask for the money upfront.
    You might tell your friend that borrowed the dress- I needed to take it to the dry cleaner or next time you lend- just say-” just dry clean it before you give it back since I hope to wear it again soon”. When it comes to time constraints, since you’ve been burned so many times- when someone asks you to babysit for an hour- you might have to say- an hour is fine, but more than that is a problem today. When you offer someone a ride at a set time- you might say- I need to leave no later than 12:00, so if you are not here, I will need to leave without you. With my own family- I might say, if you won’t be here by 12:00, then please call. With cell phones now- there usually isn’t a great excuse.
    Beware of loans- or volunteering for anything when you are new in an area-My first year in xyz I was asked to head the shalach manot committee. Boy, am I glad I said no-I would have been “in over my head”. And loans? the new kid on the block does not know the story- so they will be approached first.
    I have learned the hard way to say NO. And I do say NO.( Yes, that is allowed!)