Rabbi Akiva omeir…V’hakol l’fi roev hama'aseh.
Rabbi Akiva says…Hakol is according to the roev of the action. (Avos 3:15)
The two words I left untranslated are ambiguous.
Hakol. Hakol means the entirety, all of it. All of what?
Roev. Roev can mean the majority or the frequency or the magnitude. Which one does it denote in the context of this Mishna?
According to the Rambam, roev refers to the frequency.
And then he [Rabbi Akiva] said that a virtue will not come to a person according to the magnitude of a deed but according to the frequency of a deed…
This may be compared to someone who gives…a thousand gold pieces at once to one person and to another person he gives nothing. This will not cultivate a middah of nidivus, heartfelt generosity, in the giver. Instead, he will experience a strong feeling of generosity that will soon leave him. Whereas one who gives one gold piece one thousand times will acquire the middah of nidivus. (paraphrase of Rambam ibid)
To be hisnadaiv is to do something al tzad ha’nidivus, in a manner of nedivus. There is a difference between giving something out of a sense of obligation and giving something out of love, gmar b’libo. The term nidivus denotes giving out of love. (Shavuos 26b)
Sometimes, parents give to their children out of a sense of obligation, not in a heartfelt manner. Unconditional love is not always conscious love. I love you on some level all of the time and right now I’m not feeling it at the highest level. I’m going to give this to you anyway.
At other times, parents give to their children out of a feeling of gmar b’libo, they give with nidivus. A different emotional connection results when a gift is given from nidivus rather than obligation, a difference experienced by both the giver and the recipient.
Give to him readily and have no pain in your heart when you give to him. (Devorim 15:10). We are warned to keep stinginess away from our nefesh. We should instead be generous, as it says The generous one is blessed. (Mishlei 22:9). And [the act] of giving with our hands is not enough. We must rather plant the trait of nedivus into our nefesh. (Shaarei Teshuva 3:35)
Nedivus is that trait through which man can attain great heights … By means of this quality one may attain lofty heights in this world and in the world to come, as it says, A man’s gift eases his way and gives him access to the great. (Mishlei 18:16). Because of his gifts, kings and nobles will love him and so will every man. There is nothing in the world like nedivus for getting the world to love you, and even in the world to come the generous man will receive a good reward because of the gifts he has given. (Orchos Tzadikim 17:2)
These are the lessons we learn from the Mishna when we understand the word roev to mean the frequency of the action. This is the way the Rambam understood this word in the Mishna.
The Tiferes Yisrael understood the word roev in this context to mean magnitude.
He taught us that the manner in which a gift is given, albeit infrequently, makes a difference.
It seems to me that [the term roev of the action in the Mishna refers to] the magnitude of the act, that is, the way it is done and not according to the multiplicity of acts. (As in Tehilim 18:36, v’Anvascha tarbeini, Your humility has made me great [in significance, not in number].
The magnitude of the act is measured by the nature of the actor, that is to say the degree to which he has to overcome his yaitzer, his inclination against the act. A person who is stingy by nature receives more reward for giving tzedakah than a spendthrift. Ki Attah tshaleim le'ish k’ma'aseihu (Tehilim 62:13), that is to say, you reward each person according to the way he does things and his nature. (Tiferes Yisrael ibid)
What does the expression Your humility has made me great mean?
This is like someone who says to his fellow, your humility has made me feel greater than you. (Igra d’Kallah Vayikra 32)
When a child routinely receives something, such as a weekly allowance, it is up to the parent to make the act of giving emotionally significant.
Here are two scenarios of the act of giving weekly allowance. Consider the emotional connection made by each.
Dad: Good morning, Chezky. Your allowance is at your place at the table. Have a good day in yeshiva.
End of first scenario. Here’s the second scenario:
Dad: Good morning, Chezky. I hope you and your chavrusa make some progress on that Tosfos today. Have you thought about it since Friday?
Chezky: Yes, Ta, I think we need to look at the gemara in Nedarim that they brought more carefully.
Dad: Sounds good! Hatzlacha! Oh, here’s your allowance. Have a good day in yeshiva.
As is usually the case, parenting done well requires emotional connection. Emotional connection requires time, kavanah, and choice of words and actions. Emotional connection is the most valuable gift you can give your child and anyone else in your life who matters to you.
Make sure they know they are worth your effort. You may mean more to them than you realize.
Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Ackerman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with specialties in marriage, dating, and parenting.
He is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time Available at bookstores and on Amazon.
He can be reached at 718-344-6575.