For the week ending 2 June 2012 / 11 Sivan 5772

Generously Wrong

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Shelly

Dear Rabbi,

I ordered a particular arts/craft item from an acquaintance to be prepared from materials that I bought and paid for. As it turned out, I was not particularly pleased with the final product and I preferred not to pay for it. So I offered that she keep it for herself, or sell it for whatever profit she wants. I thought this was fair and even generous since, although I wouldn’t be paying her for the work, I paid for the materials and she’ll be able to cover the labor or make a profit by selling it if she wants. She claims that that’s not fair since she prepared what I ordered and I should pay her what we agreed upon even if I don’t want it. What do you suggest I do?

Dear Shelly,

You don’t deny that she prepared what you ordered, only that you don’t particularly like the way it turned out. Your offer, then, from her point of view doesn’t seem particularly generous. On the contrary, after the time and labor she invested in the project anticipating remuneration, you’re suggesting she keep it for herself, or have to deal with finding someone else who will be willing to buy what you ordered and didn’t like.

When you consider paying her what she deserves and keeping it for yourself, or selling it yourself in order to cut your losses, does that seem appealing to you? I imagine not, so you should be able to imagine why she’s not particularly pleased by your proposition either.

I suggest you pay her for it, and if you are still intent on being generous with her, you can then give it to her as a gift to do with as she pleases – to either keep for herself or to resell it!

Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli and his household were very poor. After many years of forgoing new clothes, his Rebbetzin finally was able to obtain some nice cloth and commissioned the local tailor to prepare her a nice dress.

When she went to pick up the dress, she noticed that the tailor’s eyes were teary. He replied to her inquiry by explaining that his daughter was recently engaged, and when his future in-laws became aware that the beautiful dress that he was preparing (and could certainly not afford himself) was not, in fact for the wedding, they were very upset and he suffered much embarrassment.

Without thinking twice about it, the Rebbetzin gave the dress to the tailor for his daughter and left the store. When she told the story to her husband, the holy Rabbi Zusha, he immediately inquired, “And what of the tailor’s wages – did you pay him for his work?” “Pay him?” she exclaimed, “I gave him the entire dress as a gift!”

The Rabbi replied that the poor tailor worked day and night on the garment, not for his daughter, but for the Rebbetzin, and that the tailor certainly placed his hopes on using the wages for his labor to buy food for his hungry children. But now that she gave the dress to him, where will he have money for his family? “Why should the tailor suffer” he challenged, “because you decided to give his daughter the dress as a gift?”

The wise Rebbetzin, without hesitation, rushed to the tailor and paid him his wages due.

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