Who Owes Whom?


Sometimes people feel that Hashem “owes” them. They say, “Look, Hashem, I came to shul today,” I learned Torah,” “I do hesed,” or “I pray,” figuring that because they do these mitzvot Hashem is somehow indebted to them. But if we think about it truthfully, we will realize how gravely mistaken this attitude is.

Rabbi Jonathan Rietti expressed this idea with a beautiful parable. A 12-year-old boy was rushing to school, and as he picked up his breakfast, just before running out the door to catch his bus, he left a note on the table for his mother. It listed the following:

Mowing the lawn:                                     $15.00

Making my bed:                                         $10.00

Playing with my little brother                $10.00

Taking out the garbage                            $11.50

Good report card:                                     $25.00

Raking the leaves:                                     $18.00


After reading the note, the mother was aghast. “He’s charging me for taking out the garbage, and for playing with his little brother?! What an ingrate! After reflecting upon the situation for a few moments, she came up with an idea. She turned over the paper and wrote the following note for her son:


Carrying you inside me for nine months:                       No charge

Staying up with you for hours on many nights:            No charge

Caring for you when you were ill:                                     No charge

The time and tears you caused through the years:     No charge

Praying for you:                                                                      No charge

The nights filled with dread and the worries ahead: No charge

All the love I’ve shown you:                                                No charge


The boy came home from school and read his mother’s note. With tears running down his face, he turned the page over and wrote underneath his original note: Paid in full.”


People turn to Hashem and say, “I came to shul,” or “I helped a poor family in Israel,” expecting that He is now obliged to repay them for these deeds. But Hashem can answer them back, “For giving you a functioning brain – no charge;” “For giving you healthy organs – no charge;” For giving you two eyes – no charge.”

We, like the 12-year-old boy, often fail to realize how much kindness is provided for us. Each eye, for example, has 100 million receptors, each of which takes an image, transforms it into an electrical impulse and sends it to the brain where it is deciphered. The message is sent to the brain via 50,000 connectors, and the “pipe” is never clogged. And all this happens at lightning speed. I recently saw that the best digital cameras in the world range from 60 to 80 megapixels and sell for about $40-$50,000. The human eye has about 600 megapixels – and Hashem gave us each two of them – free of charge.

In the beracha of Asher Yatzar, which we recite after using the restroom, we describe how Hashem heals us by removing waste from our bodies in wonderous fashion. Our bodies automatically separate what they need from what they don’t need and expel the waste. Who is paying for this service?

Instead of having the attitude of, “What have You done for me lately?” we should appreciate and be grateful for the infinite kindness that Hashem bestows upon us at every moment.