Monday, April 7, 2008
Pizza Delivery Tipping, נהמא דכיסופא, Orlah, & Freeloading
Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato, in Derech Hashem I:2:2, lays out one of the central pillars upon which our understanding of the purpose of life is based. There, after he discusses the concept that Hashem created mankind in order to give good to another, and that since that good must ultimately be a connection to Hashem Himself, the only perfect good, he teaches something more about the form of that goodness. It must be a goodness which is earned, where the recipient of that good is the master of it, who has "earned" it to some extent or another.
This is the concept of "נהמא דכיסופא," the "bread of humiliation," found in the Zohar. Receiving a free gift, without doing anything in return, is called "the bread of humiliation" because one feels embarrassed that he does not stand on his own, but has to "freeload" on someone else. Even though one is receiving something that he wants, the good has a bad taste in his mouth because it comes with the humiliation that he is a "free rider." This is why Hashem's wisdom decreed that we must do something to "earn" the ultimate good, Deveikus with Hashem.
The Gemara (Yerushalmi Orlah 1:3 (Daf 6a))says that "דאכיל מן חבריה בהית מסתכל ביה," "one who eats the bread of his friend is embarrassed to look at his face."
The Gemara discusses the halacha of Orlah, the prohibition of eating the first three years' fruits of a tree. The basis of the isur is the concept that when a Orlah tree is growing too close to another tree without the Isur of Orlah, when the non-Orlah tree derives its nutrition from the Orlah one, then this is the case where the Torah forbids that plant. And from this halacha, we can see the concept of נהמא דכיסופא as well. When the non-Orlah plant's leaves are facing the Orlah plant, then it is known that it must not be receiving any sustenance from the Orlah plant since it is not embarrassed to face it. But when it's leaves are facing away from the Orlah plant, it is known that it is indeed receiving sustenance from the Orlah plant, and it is because of the humiliation of receiving free sustenance, that it faces away from the Orlah plant. ("ואם דבר בריא שהוא חי מכח הילדה דבר הכל אסור...כיצד הוא יודע רבי ביבי בשם רבי חנינה אם היו העלים הפוכין כלפי הילדה דבר בריא שהוא חי מכח הזקנה ואם היו העלים הפוכין כלפי הזקנה דבר בריא שהוא חי מכח הילדה.")
One other mashal, analogy, to understand this concept came to me one time when my parents were visiting. We ordered pizza to be delivered to the house for dinner one night. The delivery guy looked really down, but when my Dad gave him a relatively generous tip, he really perked up and is spirits really improved. It got me to thinking about the different ways people react to receiving a "free gift."
Would I get the same reaction if I saw a friend at work who looked like he wasn't so happy and I handed him a twenty dollar bill and said, "Here you go man. You're looking down. Hopefully this will cheer you up!"? Probably the guy would think that I was nuts and wouldn't even accept the money. And the process certainly would not make him happier.
However, when you give someone a tip, it does cheer them up. What's the difference? In both cases, you don't have to give the person any money. In the case of the pizza delivery guy, the pizza is already paid for separately. The only difference is that your friend at work has done nothing to earn those twenty dollars, whereas the pizza delivery guy has done something to "earn" it. That's why receiving the money makes him feel good and not the opposite.
I like this mashal because I think the idea of a tip is more comparable to our reward from Hashem than the idea of one's salary from his job. In the case of a tip, one is doing some work in exchange for the tip. But the giving of the tip is still a gift that comes from the generosity of the giver, since it is not required. Similarly, Hashem is still giving us the perfect good, Deveikus with Him, through his beneficient nature. However, the good is perfect and not subject to the deficiency of being נהמא דכיסופא, a free gift, since we have done some avodas Hashem, some service of Hashem "in exchange" for the goodness Hashem gives us.
May we merit to do our utmost to serve Hashem and thereby increase the pleasure we get from Deveikus to Him!
(Picture courtesy of pro.corbis.com)
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