The Torah in Parashat Ki-Teitzei presents several laws relevant to loans, including a command regarding case of collateral taken from an underprivileged borrower. If the lender took as security a blanket or garment which the needy borrower normally uses for sleeping, the lender is required to return it each night. The Torah adds, “…so that he may sleep with his garment and bless you; and for you this will be a source of merit before the Lord your God” (24:13).
Rashi, based on the Sifrei, explains the concluding phrase in this verse – “for you this will be a source of merit” – as reassuring the lender that he will receive reward for this act of sensitivity even if the borrower does not “bless” him. Although the Torah writes that the pauper will bless the lender, which the Sifrei interprets to mean that the pauper is required to offer a blessing to his lender, nevertheless, if the poor person fails to offer such a blessing, the lender is assured that he will be blessed by the Almighty.
The simple message being conveyed by the Sifrei in this passage is that we must feel gratified over the good deeds we perform even if they go unappreciated. Although feeling and expressing gratitude is a vitally important value in Torah life, nevertheless, from the benefactor’s standpoint, it should not matter whether or not he receives the appreciation he desires. We must trust that God will pay us our due reward for the kindness we extend to other people, even if those people fail to show the gratitude they should be expressing.
Moreover, it is worth reflecting for a moment on the scenario anticipated by the Torah of a pauper failing to show appreciation. The Torah foresaw this eventuality likely because people in distress often feel entitled to other people’s generous assistance. People facing financial straits might look at their wealthy peers and feel they rightfully deserve their generous support. And thus when they receive that support, they might fail to show any appreciation. Particularly in the situation described here in the Torah, the pauper might feel resentful that the wealthy lender demanded collateral in the first place, and so he will not be moved to offer a blessing thanking him for returning it each night. Although the Torah requires the pauper to overcome these feelings of entitlement and to extend a blessing to his lender, it also requires the lender to show sensitivity and understanding if the gratitude is not forthcoming. He is to understand that people enduring hardship might have trouble feeling any kind of debt of gratitude, and should feel happy and content with his charitable work regardless of the cold response on the part of his beneficiary.