Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Qunterus haChessed (ch. 1-3) – Relationship ep. 20
The Beyond Meaningful Relationships – Relationshipful Meaning series at the kloiz meets on Wednesday nights at 8pm EDT.
Wednesday night (August 17th, 2022) the Beyond Meaningful Relationship – Relationshipful Meaning chaburah started our study of Rav Dessler’s Qunterus haChessed from Mikhtav meiEilyahu vol I, printed in two parts — pp. 32-51 and pp. 140-145. (Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, who redacted the Rav Dessler’s letters into book form, has translated these sections as “Discourse on Lovingkindness” in Strive for Truth, his translation of volumes I and II of Mikhtav meiEliyahu.)
In this chaburah we learned and discussed chapters 1 through 3 (pp. 32-35). In them, Rav Dessler talks about the potentials in a person for nesinah and netilah — giving and taking. These potentials have more to do with attitude and motive than the actual action, a point which is clarified in chapter 2. Commerce is not inherently evil because it is all about give-and-take. (The Hebrew term for commerce is quite tellingly “meqach umemkar – buying [etymologically from \לקח\, getting] and selling.)
The question is why is one giving, and why is one taking? Is it about providing an essential good or service to others, or is the businessman just trying to make a buck in any way possible? Commerce is only evil when it becomes about taking advantage of the other, such as overcharging and profiteering on your counterparty’s mistake or misfortune.
Chapter 3 then moves on two to role models — Chanokh and the Chafeitz Chaim. The medrash says that Chanokh was a shoemaker who declared Hashem’s Unity with every stich. Rav Yisrael Salanter teaches that this must refer to how Chanokh made shoes. It is prohibited for a worker to be engrossed in something else during time or work they are being paid for — the medrash wouldn’t be praising him for doing just that. These unifications therefore cannot be some Qabbalistic meditation. Rather, by being so focused to give the customer the most benefit possible, Chanokh was emulating Hashem and thereby by action bringing Unity to Hashem and His reputation on earth. (The Chafeitz Chaim example is more complex, and really needs hearing the discussion in the kloiz.)