An honest man is hard to find

The test of chessed is when the guy's a creep. If I do favors to nice people, that’s nice - but it’s not the test of chessed.

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Rabbi BenZion Shafier,

Rabbi Benzion Shafier
Rabbi Benzion Shafier

Question: Why is Rashi telling us that he worked another seven years honestly? Of course he did, he’s an honest man. After all, this is Yaakov Avinu the man who embodied honesty.

Answer: Rashi is teaching us a profound lesson in morality. Typicaly if you’re a nice guy, I’m a nice guy back. It’s easy to be nice to nice people. It’s easy to do favors to people who appreciate what we do for them. But what about the nudnick? What about the guy who asks and doesn’t appreciate? what about the person who expects and doesn’t thank? What about the individual who not only doesn’t return the favor, but pays us back bad for good. Then it’s a whole different ball of wax.

The test of chessed is when the guys a creep. If I do favors to nice people, to people I like to people that I’m friendly with—that’s nice, but it’s not the test of chessed. The test of chessed is if I do chessed to people who are creeps. To people who give me a tough time. Then we see what my true motivation is
If I’m a nice guy and you’re a nice guy, and this is what nice guys do, then I do chessed as long as you’re a nice guy. But if my motivation is to be like Hashem, if my drive is to give, to be a benefactor, to be magnanimous and giving, to help then it doesn’t matter who you are. My drive is to help. I want to lighten your load.

Of course we’re not on this level, and halevei we do chessed to nice people, in the way that we should—but the avos were. Their chessed was pure. Not for gain. Not for profit. Not what’s in it for me. But, for you. I want to help you. I want to make your situation better. Why? For no reason. It’s not about me. It’s about you.

Honesty is almost as hard. When we are dealing with honorable people, it’s easy to keep our word. But what about when we are dealing with swindlers, liars and cheats? And what if they cheated us. So there is a concept of extracting that which you are entitled to in din. If you are able to accomplish in bais din, what you are owed, then you can take the law into your own hands and take what’s yours. But that isn’t what we are dealing with here. Yaakov was duped. But after all said and done he agreed. He gave his word to work for another seven years—and he did it with the same emunah, the same sacrifice the same super dedication as the earlier ones. Why?

Because his honesty wasn’t dictated by Lavan. His integrity was defined by the conditions or circumstances he was in. He was an honest man. He was a moral man. His morality and ethics were way above any accepted customs, mores, or habbits of the times. He was above the fray. He was an honest man. Not because he would get caught. Not because he was looking for credit. And not because he liked or respected the other man. His word was his word. He said he would do it—now he will do it.

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