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3 Nissan 5764 - March 25, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
The Spirit of Magnanimity

by Rav Yisroel Nulman

The words nedivus, nedovoh and nodiv are all familiar to the general public and all derive from the same root. They appear in the Torah, in the words of Chazal and in the writings of more recent chachomim.

Every individual has an opportunity to use them every day.

The Pele Yoetz begins his section entitled "Nedivus" as follows: "How goodly is this good trait of ruach nedivoh. It is good for Heaven and good for people, good for himself and good for others, good for This World and good for the World to Come. It is a gift from G-d and ingrained in humanity."

But what exactly is the definition of the word nedivus? How is this good trait of ruach nedivoh manifested?

In order to reach a precise understanding of the concept of nedivus we would do well to examine several sources, beginning with the Ramban's description of the way Avrohom Ovinu performed the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim.

"And Avrohom ran to the cattle" (Bereishis 18:7). According to the Ramban this verse comes to teach us, "his great desire for nedivus. For the great man who had 318 sword-bearers in his household and was very old, and also weak from his miloh, went himself to Soroh's tent to hasten her in making the bread, and then ran to the place where the cattle were kept, to select a good and tender calf to make for his guests, and did not do all this through one of the servants attending him."

From here we see how to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim on the highest level. The Torah teaches us that Avrohom Ovinu attained this level as a result of his yearning for nedivus.

In his commentary on Pirkei Ovos, the Rambam gives us clear guidance in acquiring the trait of nedivus and his remarks should be explored in depth. "Everything is according to the abundance of the act," says the mishnah (Ovos 3, 15). In his commentary the Rambam writes, "And the higher levels will not come to a person according to the size of the act but according to the number of acts. This can be likened to one who gave a worthy person a thousand gold coins all at once and to a second person he gave nothing; he does not acquire the trait of nedivus through this one act as much as he who gave a thousand gold coins one at a time and gave each one with nedivus. For the [latter person] multiplied his act of nedivus a thousand times and achieved a powerful kinyan . . . And this is what [Chazal] meant in saying `according to the abundance of the act,' but not according to the size of the act."

From here we learn that in the case of giving tzedokoh the Rambam suggests growing accustomed to the mitzvah, thereby raising the individual up to the level of nedivus.

Orchos Tzaddikim emphasizes and expands on the Rambam's idea, describing the ideal nodiv in detail: "He who gives a large gift to one who asks for the gift is half nodiv, but the complete nodiv is he who regularly gives a little or a lot before he is asked. Furthermore Chazal said the trait of nedivus depends on habit, for one is not called a nodiv until he is accustomed to giving constantly, according to his ability. For he who gives to someone worthy of receiving a thousand gold coins all at once is not as much of a nodiv as he who gives a thousand gold coins a thousand times, each and every gold coin to the worthy place. For he who gives a thousand gold coins all at once was stirred to give and then his intention ceased . . . On this matter chachomim said, `Everything is according to the abundance of the act' rather than saying, `according to the size of the act'" (Shaar 17, Shaar HaNedivus, p. 142).

Magnanimity (nedivus haleiv) is manifested not only when a person wants to contribute to a fundraising drive but on many other occasions as well. For instance, a good, magnanimous Jew who lives in my neighborhood witnessed an argument between a pharmacist and a poor man trying to explain that he could not afford to pay for the medicine the doctor prescribed. The infuriated pharmacist refused to give it to him. Upon hearing the loud dispute, my neighbor quickly gave the man the amount of money he needed. He was not obligated to do so, but his nedivus leiv would not allow him to idly watch the stranger in his state of distress, though nothing had been asked of my friend.

Pele Yoetz contains a special passage on the subject of nedivus that describes the proper attitude towards a poor store owner or wage laborer. "One should not do as many rich people do when they buy an item from a poor person or hire him and are pedantic and exacting toward him saying, `When we want to give tzedokoh we know how to,' but in business dealings they do not want to adorn themselves [i.e. conduct themselves becomingly]. If they were wiser they would understand there is no greater form of tzedokoh than when the poor person thinks he is taking what is his, and before HaKodosh Boruch Hu [the truth] is clear."

From this we learn the correct approach in purchasing an item from a poor person or hiring him. This is not a case of having to contribute. The reaction has to stem from an inner feeling and this feeling is what the Pele Yoetz describes as "nedivus."

The remarks in the Sefer Chassidim on how to go about making a purchase from a poor person are also of interest: "The highest among all the various forms of tzedokoh is when a poor person comes to sell an item that people do not need and one buys it from him. There is no greater [type of] tzedokoh, for the poor person does not sense he is being given tzedokoh, but rather that an item is being bought from him" (1235).

Our gedolei Torah had a special aptitude for assessing philanthropists' intentions in giving tzedokoh. At first glance we would think all their acts of tzedokoh were pure and unblemished, but based on a real incident we learn that gedolei Yisroel were able to look at a man's inner being and know his nature in terms of giving tzedokoh.

In R' Chaim of Volozhin's city was a rich and distinguished man who never refused to give tzedokoh to anyone in need, and every time he was asked he would give generously. Of this man R' Chaim zt"l would say, "He is a dear man, a true baal tzedokoh, but there is one shortcoming in all of his splendid deeds. This man derives great pleasure from giving tzedokoh. He wants the poor person to be in need, and then he gives." ("Der mentsch hut tzu fil hano'oh fun tzedokoh geben. Er vil az yener zol darfen un er zol geben.")

From Chazal we learn there is another stage in nedivus in terms of a person's relationship with HaKodosh Boruch Hu.

In maseches Chagigah (3a) Rovo interprets the verse, "Ma yofu pe'omayich bene'olim bas nodiv" (Shir Hashirim 7:2) homiletically to mean, "Your footsteps were so lovely when shod in pilgrim's sandals, O bas nodiv." He then goes on to explain that "bas nodiv" refers to "the daughter of Avrohom Ovinu who is called `nodiv,' as is written, `Nedivei amim ne'esofu am Elokei Avrohom' (Tehillim 47:10)."

According to Rashi, the gemora says Avrohom Ovinu is referred to as a "nodiv" because "nodvoh libo lehakir Bor'o."

Thus what we call "nedivus" is not necessarily a real trait like other traits. Middos such as zerizus, atzlus, gaavoh, anovoh, etc. stand alone. Each has a definition of its own and certain ways of functioning. The Pele Yoetz employs the term ruach nedivoh because nedivus is a general term for all of the middos, not a middoh of its own.

As explained above, nedivus is a mode of conduct in hachnosas orchim for instance, or in tzedokoh, or yiras Shomayim, and the like. Nedivus can be defined as the living spirit with which one engages in any middoh; it is an auxiliary concept accompanying any of various different middos.

This is essentially the definition of the word "quantity." Nedivus is a great desire to give and can be attached to any middoh.

It is interesting to note how the composer of the Shabbos night song, "Menuchoh Vesimchoh," penned the line, "Berov mat'amim veruach nedivoh." According to Otzer Hatefillos, some commentators say it means one should give some of his Shabbos food to the poor with a "ruach nedivoh."

May it be His will that we indeed merit ruach nedivoh in thought and deed, doing all our deeds for Heaven and for humanity "veruach nedivoh sismecheini" (Tehillim 51:14).

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