The art of gift-giving

If you want to give someone a gift is it important that the person know about it? Why or why not?

In the book Ein Aya Rabbi Yitzchak HaCohen Kook focuses on explaining the Talmudic ambivalence over whether or not to inform the recipient that you are giving him a gift. Without going into the proof texts, I will just share the issue he highlights.

When giving a gift secretly the receiver will not give anything in return, not even words of appreciation, because he doesn’t know the person gave him anything. There is an advantage in this to the giver because it makes the act of giving his the sole motivation.

When openly informing the recipient that he is being given a gift there is an advantage to the receiver because it makes him feel good about the person who gave something to him and this increases feelings of good will between people in the world.

Which is the higher priority in the hierarchy of values? Rabbi Kook says the second takes priority. He’s not favoring the receiver over the giver. He’s looking at the quality of recognition and acknowledgment of good as the superior value that will increase the general feelings of recognition and appreciation in the world.

Yesterday was the last day my friend and I learned about the topic of gratitude from the book Alei Shur. As a conclusion I’m coming away with the sense that I frequently say “Thank you” but I want to get more in the habit of saying “Thank you for…”

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