Prologue:        What difference did a few dollars make to him? Why did he have to turn them down?

        In this week's Parsha we read of the battle Avraham waged on behalf of the five kings in order to save his nephew. After the war was declared over, Avraham was offered all the spoils. He swore off everything. An action that begs many questions: First of all, Avraham had received these spoils through Kibbush Milchama (spoils of war). They were rightfully his. Why did he turn them down? Also, why did he feel the need to forcibly turn them down with a Shevuah? After all, if he didn't want the spoils, he could have simply said no. Why the show of defiance?

        Maran Rosh HaYeshiva Harav Goldvicht ztl. (Asufas Maarachas Berashis) cited the Talmud (Chullin 89a) which notes that Avraham feared taken anything that was stolen. However, the Rosh Yeshiva asked, Avraham had legitimately acquired these spoils. For him, they were not Gezel (stolen property). Why did he turn them down?

        Rav Goldvicht ztl.  explained that perhaps no sin would be attached to Avraham had he taken of the spoils but the spoils themselves were tainted through their identity as stolen goods. The people of Sodom had created such a strong environment of thievery, it had penetrated their entire culture, including the inanimate spoils of war. Avraham feared that if he were to bring this culture into his home, he might allow Sodomite influence of his psyche to overpower him as well. Therefore, not only did
he disallow it in his home, he declared his opposition to the spoils, and the lifestyle they were remnants of, to be spoiled. Instead, Avraham sought to enrich his life elsewhere.

The  "Gift" of Life ??

        Shlomo HaMelech made it pretty clear: Those who hate gifts (Sonai Matanot) will live (Mishlei 15:27). The Talmud (Sotah 47b) notes that indeed when gifts became more prevalent, lifespans shortened. Elsewhere (Kiddushin 59a;Chullin 42b; Megillah 28a) the Talmud offers similar insights.

        Why is this the case? The Rambam (end of Hil. Zechiya) explains that one should not accept handouts from man but rather accept his assistance from Hashem. This explanation appears in Shulchan Aruch as well (Choshem Mishpat, 249). The Sma offers a different explanation. He suggests that gifts come to people who seek them. Those who seek gifts are likely to overlook flaws in the people who give them and will never work to become better people.

How far must one carry this concept? Rashi (Commentary to Avot 1:10) explains that one should love work in order to stay off public assistance whereby he will enjoy a longer life based on the Possuk of Sonai Matanot Yichyeh. This has led some to conclude that although it is a Mitzvah to give Tzeddaka, it seems better for one not to take it where not absolutely
necessary (See VaYechi Yaakov, 28).

        Yet, is that completely correct? Is gift giving to be included in Sonai Matanot Yichyeh? Doesn't the Mogen Avraham  discuss giving gifts to a Chosson at his Aufruf and entertain the thought that the gift is so important, one might be allowed to carry it on Shabbos?

        The Chida (Shut Chaim Shaal I:44) answers that gift giving to a Chosson might be different. He explains that the statement Sonai Matanot Yichyeh applies when the giver has no benefit from the gift. However, this great benefit to the giver of a wedding gift (See Berachot 6a) and thus the gift is more of a transaction than a pure gift. Sefer Tirosh V'Yitzhar (27) explains that the same can be said about he who accepts the Tzeddaka, that he too, helps the giver achieve his Mitzva, and his accepting is not to be included in Sonai Matanot.

        Chochmas Manoch (Bava Metzia 22a) offers a different solution to our problem. He posits that Sonai Matanot Yichyeh applies only when the giver is coerced into giving that which he did not want to give. If the giver wanted to give the gift on his own, there is no violation of Sonai Matanot after all.
        L'Halacha, the Bach (Choshen Mishpat 249; Bava Metzia 12) notes that in the standard case we do not say Sonai Matanot Yichyeh. We assume most people prefer the gift. This is the position that is brought by the Aruch HaShulchan (C.M. 249) as well.    

Shabbat Shalom