Kenneth Cohen

Do a Favor – Gain an Enemy

There is a story told of the Bobover Rebbe, where a certain individual looked at this rabbi with distain. The Rebbe noticed that this person clearly did not like him. In his wisdom, the sage commented, “I don’t know why this fellow doesn’t like me. I never did him a favor!”

We are commanded numerous times in Parshat Ki Teitzeh to be kind and compassionate in all our dealings with our fellow man. Yet, we must be aware of human nature.

A basic concept in Judaism is to be appreciative of a kindness that one does for us. Moshe Rabbeinu reprimands the Jewish nation for not recognizing and appreciating all of the miracles they witnessed in Egypt and the desert.

But there is a dark side in some people in that they do not know how to be grateful. When someone does them a favor, they feel beholden, and expect that this favor is going to cost them at a later time.

It is often difficult to believe that something done on behalf of someone else with a full heart, can get such a negative response. But this is a sad reality of human nature.

For me personally, it took me a long time to realize the truth of the Bobover Rebbe’s words. Perhaps we need to use more discretion, before we decide to help someone. We each have limited resources, and greater care needs to be taken to be sure that our kindness be focused on where it is needed and appreciated.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at