וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲבִיהֶם אִם כֵּן אֵפוֹא זֹאת עֲשׂוּ קְחוּ מִזִּמְרַת הָאָרֶץ בִּכְלֵיכֶם וְהוֹרִידוּ לָאִישׁ מִנְחָה… וְכֶסֶף מִשְׁנֶה קְחוּ בְיֶדְכֶם וְאֶת הַכֶּסֶף הַמּוּשָׁב בְּפִי אַמְתְּחֹתֵיכֶם תָּשִׁיבוּ בְיֶדְכֶם אוּלַי מִשְׁגֶּה הוּא:
“Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be so, do this: take some of the choice products of the land in your baggage, and carry them down as a gift for the man… And take with you double the money, carrying back with you the money that was replaced in the mouths of your bags; perhaps it was a mistake.” (Gen. 42:11-12).
QUESTION–New York, NY
Is it a problem to give someone a gift that you received from someone else and that you don’t want, without disclosing that it is a re-gift? A congregant said that a rabbi of hers told her that it is a problem of geneivat da’at, deceiving another person, but I’m doubtful. What is your position on this?
The problem of genveivat da’at is when you do something so someone feels underserved gratitude towards you through an act of misrepresentation, like inviting them to a wedding when you know they can’t make it. Here’s how Rambam formulates it (Deot 2:6):
It is forbidden lignov da’at, to deceive, people, even a non-Jew… One should not press his colleague to share a meal with him when he knows that his colleague will not accept the invitation… He should not open casks supposedly for his colleague which he must open for sale, in order to deceive him into thinking that they have been opened in his honor. The same applies with all matters of this sort.
As these examples make clear, the problem is deceiving and misrepresenting, either the facts (for example, the purpose for which the casks are being opened) or his own intentions (extending an invitation when you are not genuinely intending for the person to attend).
Regifting would be forbidden if the gift is presented in a way that makes the recipient believe that you made an effort and went out of your way to get something specifically for them (“it’s the thought that counts”). But if you don’t make any false claims or suggest that you made a special effort, then I don’t think that it would be a problem.
Consider two possible scenarios. If the present isn’t too tailored to the person and his/her likes, then the person likely won’t think that you went out of your way to buy it. We all know that people will sometimes have a store of presents to give out (for example, I have a bunch of nice challah covers ready to give as presents when I am invited out) and will sometimes regift items. If, on the other hand, it is tailored to the person, then the fact that you are regifting to this person and not someone else means that you did have them specifically in mind, and you did make a special effort, even if that effort did not include going to the store to buy it.
Intention also matters. Note that Rambam writes that the actions were done “in order to deceive” the person. So, if you are not trying to misrepresent and a normal person would not assume that you had made a special effort when you had not, then you don’t have to worry if this person might draw the wrong conclusions. However, if a normal person would assume that you made an effort when you had not, then giving them the gift without clarifying that it is a regift could be seen as an intentional misrepresentation.