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The Duties of the Heart, by Rabbi Bachye, tr. by Edwin Collins, [1909], at

The Motives of Human Benevolence

There are five aspects of human beneficence:—(2) that of the father to his children; (2) of the master to his slave; (3) of the rich to the poor, in order that he may receive the reward of heaven; (4) that of some men to others, for the sake of acquiring

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a good name, or honour, or worldly reward; (5) that of the strong towards the weak, because he pities them, and because he is pained on account of their condition.

If we look closely at all these kinds of benevolence, we shall find that, in motive, not one of them is entirely disinterested.

The beneficence of a father is for his own good. The son is a part of himself, and the very substance of his hope and his ambition. And do we not see that a father is more anxious about his children than about his own body—in regard to their food and drink and clothing, and in warding off all injuries from them; and the natural parental compassion and kindness of fathers for their children makes the burden of all trouble and labour, and all disturbance of his rest on behalf of his children, seem light to him.

Nevertheless, Reason, as well as Scripture, obliges the child to serve, honour, and reverence his parents. And even though the parent is compelled, by the promptings of Nature, to all this, and although these natural instincts are of God, whose delegate in this respect he is, such honour and gratitude are no less due to him.

The beneficence of a master to his slave is prompted only by self-interest, and yet the Creator has made it the duty of the slave to repay that goodness with service and gratitude as well.

The beneficence of the rich to the poor, for the sake of the reward of heaven, is like the purchase by a business man of a great and permanent advantage

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to come to him at some future time, in return for a small, perishable, and contemptible good that he parts with immediately; and his only intention is to adorn his own soul in his after-life. And yet, in spite of all this, gratitude is due to him.

The beneficence of one section of mankind to another for the sake of the love of praise and honour and worldly reward, is like the conduct of a man who gives his neighbour goods to take care of until he wants them for himself, or who entrusts money to his neighbour which he will, himself, require later on. But although his intention is only to benefit himself in doing good to others, yet praise and gratitude are due to him.

Even he that takes pity upon the poor and the afflicted whose sufferings are painful to him, intends, by relieving them, to relieve himself of a pain that afflicts his own soul; and he is like one who, by the goodness of God, is healing himself of a painful illness; but yet he is not left without praise.

Thus the primary intention of everyone in doing good to others, is to do good to himself, or save himself from pain.

Next: Man's Obligation of Gratitude to God