Wednesday, November 15, 2006

lo techaneim - avraham's gifts to the pilagshim

Last night after Ma'ariv a friend asked me why the matanos (gifts) Avraham gave to the Bnei haPilagshim (25:6) were not a violation of the issur of 'lo techaneim', which prohibits giving a free gift (for which one receives nothing in return) to a non-Jew. I am not familar with anyone who asks this question and have never thought about it - so far, no ideas have come to mind.

15 comments:

  1. According to the Rashi you cited last Thursday, Abraham was himself only a ben Noach. Aren't b'nai Noach allowed to give gifts among themselves?

    Moreover, in the situation, which is Abraham "settling his estate", were these actually free gifts? They could be more likely characterized as given in recognition of past filial services, or given in exchange for the promise to accept Isaac's inheritance of all the rest of Abraham's estate.

    Anglo-american law holds that natural love and affection can replace tangible "consideration" (using that term in the technical legal sense) in contracts, as when a parent promises to give something to a child based on l&a--in contrast to such a promise to a non-relative, where the promise would not be an enforceable contract because no consideration was given in return for the promise. Is there a halachic version of this doctrine?

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  2. Even though Avraham was a ben noach, the gemara says he observed the entire torah, which I assume means he treated himself l'chumra like a yisrael.
    I am not sure past consideration is a heter for lo techaneim. Future consideration would work, e.g. a tip to make sure next time the service is good, but this seems like an end of life bequest, so what could avraham hope for in return? We thought of the idea that it is to get the bnei pilagshim to leave yitzchak alone, but there is no evidence in the text that indicates that motive.

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  3. Chaim,
    what about the gemaras in ha-Sholeach where people set their avadim kenaaim or shicha kenaaniyos free because they provided their adon with koras ruach? In the same sugya the Ran had commented that the issur aseh of le-olam bahem taavodu has a similar hagdarah of lo sechanem, and famously explains the freeing of R'Elezer's eved to make the minyan. Hu ha-din hacha.

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  4. I guess that works, but is this the pshat in the Ran? - isn't he speaking of the case of R' Eliezer freeing his eved where there is a clear benefit of tzorech mitzvah, not just koras ruach alone? (I don't have seforim accessible now to check).

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  5. Bill Selliger2:30 PM

    Likt en kup that yichus followed the father before Matan Torah...does that sound familiar at all?

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  6. >>>yichus followed the father before Matan Torah

    I'm not sure what you mean. Avraham himself was a ben noach, not a jew. And even if he was a jew, do you mean to tell me that yishmael and all the bnei hapilagshim were jewish also? The gemara says eisav had the din of a mumar, but not yishmael. Lastly, with respect to the general issue of yichus before mattan torah, see the post here
    http://divreichaim.blogspot.com/2006/05/were-avos-jewish.html

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  7. anon14:43 PM

    I also dont have the sefarim here (isnt that annoying that law firms dont have a full vilna shas with the rif and the ran?) bli neder I will look too.

    By the way, Avraham spent his whole life giving matnas chinam to all sorts of people. Now you can say all of that was to be mekarev them to the Shechinah, issue of kiddush/chilul Hashem, etc. but then you can answer the same thing here.

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  8. Anonymous5:14 PM

    Makiro?

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  9. The Pardes Yosef 'al haTorah deals with this question when Abraham gave the booty to the King of Sedom. He offers multiple answers.

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  10. Anonymous1:48 AM

    maybe he held it applied only to the 7 umos not bnei ketura

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  11. anon19:01 AM

    Chaim,

    the Ran I referred to earlier is on 20b in dapei ha-Rif and the gemara re: freeing an eved for koras ruach is on 40a. The rishonim in both places discuss the issue.

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  12. anon1 - will do a seperate posting on it.

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  13. I have a related post about Avraham consuming stam yeinam and pas askum, and lo techanem in terms of not accepting the king of Sodom's gifts.

    See here.

    Personally, I do not think that these are actually legitimate serious questions, for reasons I tried to detail here. That is, classic Chazal say this for positive acts, but not really to ask questions on specific actions of Avot.

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  14. Thanks Josh. Whether or not they are serious questions I guess depends on what level you are reading the text, but hopefully I am not being disrespectful if I say that some of these type questions and excercises in achronim seem 'l'chidudei b'alma', which is what makes them so entertaining.

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  15. yes, I'd agree with that sentiment.

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