Returning a Favor

Harav Elya Brudny was quoted (“Navigating Our National Meltdown — With Torah Guidance,” January 24) as saying “We have to understand a fundamental concept when it comes to the notion of hakaras hatov. … In the entire inyan of hakaras hatov, we only find that the receiver of a favor must recognize and thank the giver. However, we do not find that he must give back the favor.”

The Chovos HaLevavos writes in his introduction to Shaar Avodas Elokim, that when one receives a favor from someone else, he is obligated lehashiv lo gmulo — to return his favor. The Chovos HaLevavos writes further, that our obligation to serve Hashem is based on the principle of hakaras hatov. It would seem from this that one who receives a favor should return the favor.

C. Waldman

Thank you for your letter.

The intent of Rav Brudny’s statement was not that a favor need not be repaid, but rather that it need not be repaid in a manner which will “undo” the original favor.

This was the meaning of the Rosh Yeshivah in the story Rav Brudny related, who told the bachurim who helped reestablish his yeshivah that it was time for them to leave. Surely, he would return the favor, but he could not continue having those bachurim in his yeshivah, because that would “undo” the favor. The favor was to prop up the yeshivah [in the mold of the previous Rosh Yeshivah], and keeping them in the yeshivah would undermine the original goal. -Eds.