Sunday, February 11, 2007

Can I Borrow Your Notes?

Last semester, I lent my notes to a few people in my class who had trouble understanding English. They showed me their notes that they felt were lacking. I noted that they had been to almost every class, and certainly put in effort. Therefore, I was happy to lend them my notes.

It reminded me, however, about a girl in my seminary class who put up a fuss about girls refusing to lend her notes.

This girl was the typical slacker. When she decided to show up, she misbehaved, passed notes, TXTed, and interrupted the teacher. Fridays we were allowed to ask anything that was on our minds. She asked the Rabbi, "I don't understand. Why do people deny me the right to borrow their notes? It's not my fault I'm not good at taking notes, so why should it bother them to lend them to me?"

Luckily, someone else spoke up before I was able to respond. "Well, we put in the effort to take good notes, so why should we just give them away? It makes our work feel worthless." The girl said calmly.

The Rabbi chimed in and said, "Zeh Ne'eneh V'Lo Chosser"- loosely translated-one can enjoy while the other won't feel a loss.

"Why is that fair?" I called out. "I come to school everyday, I work hard. I put in my effort, and take pride in my work. Why should I just give this all away to a girl who doesn't even show up most days?"I wanted to continue, but I didn't want to be ex-communicated.

Needless to say she wasn't too happy with my statement, and responded in kind, "Excuse me? What if I just can't take notes? You don't know if I try or not..."

"You can take notes if you want to. You just don't want to." I responded.

I remembered my friend in high school who frequently lent her notes to her classmates. She once received a copy of her notes instead of the original when it was time to return them! Sometimes they were bent, or dirty-they hadn't been treated with respect. That is "chosser."

There was a class in high school that everyone considered boring. Well, most people. I tried hard in the beginning, but soon realized it was worthless. My notes made no sense. From December and on, I didn't take notes, but I knew what I was getting myself into. I was not about to ask a random girl in the class I had nothing to do with to borrow her notes. I knew I wasn't going to do well on the test. I just gave up because she was a hard teacher to take notes with. Sure enough, I ended up with some notes from someone, and flunked anyway.

Then there was a class that I was the only one who enjoyed--American Politics. Nobody bothered to take notes (even though she dictated them!!!) she constantly had to shush the class, but I consistently took notes. I don't know how this happened, but she ended up basing the test on my notes, which were distributed the whole class. In a certain way, these girls deserved to flunk. They didn't bother to pay attention, they disrespected a teacher in the process (one my faves :-) ) and expected someone else to do the work for them!!

Why do people always expect others to pick up the slack for them?

I say, if you put in effort, and are simply incapable (which could happen once in a while), and prove that you've tried, you deserve help. But if you were busying TXTing, why should I waste my hard work on you?


At 2/11/2007 3:24 PM, Anonymous a junior said...

i actually have a pretty odd take on that concept, i prefer giving slackers my notes becuz if i dont then theyll probably get better notes than mine- and they definately shouldnt be doing better than me at least they should only equal me! (selfish selfish lol...or is it..)

At 2/11/2007 4:25 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

interesting one! did u ever think perhaps they're asking 4 yours bec. they're the best?

At 2/11/2007 5:15 PM, Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

I think the problem is, all you need is one pushover to give them notes, and they're set. (And from a social standpoint, let's face it: some of the notetakers are nerds, and some of the lazy people are cool. So especially in a high school setting - one nerd will give the cool girl her notes in an effort to score points. You know how crazy peer pressure is in high school.) So what's their motivation to work, if inevitably, someone will cave in and give them their notes? And sometimes, they can get notes from a girl who took the class in previous years.

It's mean, but the only solution: mass collusion.

At 2/11/2007 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on, just lend us your notes already. The Rabbi is right, but he only said half of that maamar chazal - someone who refuses to give something to a friend, when it causes him no loss, is considered to be following in the ways of sdom and amorah.

Unless the class is graded on a curve, in which case i could hear it.

At 2/11/2007 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'll never understand the people who won't share their notes. what's the big deal? what do you lose? it seems purely selfish to me.

At 2/11/2007 7:51 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

If there is some reciprocity then it makes sense to share. You may be better in this class, but someone else may be better in another class. But if it's all going one way then it simply encourages students to slack off.

Further, if you're taking a class in something that matters then it undermines the whole meritocratic system to give poor students a crutch. You'll ultimately end up with people getting grades they don't deserve, getting jobs they really have no business getting and screwing people in real life.

Imagine if your doctor went through school without doing his own work. How confident would you feel about his capabilities?

At 2/11/2007 8:08 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Btw, if you're going to share notes (and there is no reciprocity) then I recommend some form of monetary compensation. Class notes are a form of intellectual property, effort was made in composing them, and therefore the composer deserves some compensation for making them available to others.

Though the related maamar chazal has some truth to it, it is still true that the creator of intellectual property incurs an economic loss when they freely give out their work without compensation. The composer has invested time and effort into the notes that they could have otherwise spent doing other things - that is a cost. Perhaps next time they won't put in that expense and simply rely on the effort of some other hapless student to supply notes for them.

Ultimately, if you follow it out logically, why should any person choose to be the foolish student who does the work for everyone else?

At 2/12/2007 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe that lending out notes condones slacker's behavior. I find it selfish of note takers to hold their notes back as it is NO expense to them. They are doing nothing extra and are not losing anything. Why don't they relish the opportunity to help someone else out at no cost to them? Something's wrong with this attitude...

At 2/12/2007 11:58 AM, Anonymous Rivka said...

I'd just like to point out that this "sharing" is actually considered plagarism by most colleges. You aren't just "helping out" a friend, you are helping them to cheat--that is what it is called when you get credit for work which you did not complete, cheating.

When you "help out" someone in this way, you are doing it at a cost, at the cost of your integrity.

At 2/12/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


"I find it selfish of note takers to hold their notes back as it is NO expense to them."

I find it deeply selfish of people to _take_ other's notes with the self-righteous attitude that they _deserve_ them. Lemme guess, you are a slacker aintcha?


"I'd just like to point out that this "sharing" is actually considered plagarism by most colleges."

Not really. You're sharing notes, not handing in material that isn't your work. You're allowed to help your fellow students. The point is, however, that such efforts are often taken advantage of by those same weak students.

At 2/12/2007 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous 10:16 here,

actually orthoprax-i believe I have borrowed notes ONCE in my entire school career. so there.

At 2/12/2007 2:02 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


And? Does that mean that you're not a slacker? ;-)

For the record, too, what grade are you in?

At 2/12/2007 4:38 PM, Anonymous gavi said...

I give people my notes (or more correctly allow them to copy) without regard as to who's asking. Why be stingy? I don't really care if they "deserve" it or not... Remember the talmidim of rebbe akiva - my grade 9 rebbe argues that they died due to their unwillingness to share notes from rebbe akiva's shiur...

At 2/12/2007 6:07 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i never understood people who wouldnt share their notes. what do i care if someone else slacked off, thats their problem, not mind.
i dont take the notes for them, i take them for myself. once theyre there, and i learned, i couldnt care less who uses them. im sure there are more than enough times in my life when i got stuff i didnt deserve. i prefer living in a world where poeple dont make it their business to judge who deserves what. we'd all be much happier if we worried more about our own behavior and less about what others do or deserve

At 2/13/2007 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ortho-no i was not a slacker, took my own notes, and did well. FYI-I am a college graduate.

My point was that this seems to be somewhat anti-Jewish. Our religion is about giving-not receiving. Olam Chessed Yibaneh. Here, one has such an easy opportunity to give at little or no cost to oneself, yet we are reluctant? and instead see the faults in others? I don't understand...

Anon 10:16

At 2/13/2007 9:51 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Peple seemed to have skipped the paragraph in which I described my friend's situation in high school where she got her notes back damaged.
Someone once lost a page of my notes, soon before a test. I like to study from my own notes.

What it comes down to is, in the workplace, (which is the real world for most) will everyone jump to cover your butt every time you slack off? No! You'll be screwed. That is what life is about. Helping someone out (like my classmates who had a hard time understanding) is one thing, but if you're gonna sit and TXT your buddy, ignore me all semester, and ask for my notes--that's wrong.

At 2/13/2007 11:35 AM, Blogger Harley said...

I typed all my notes in college on my laptop and freely emailed them to whomever asked, regardless of whether they had missed a class or just had poor notes. In middle school, a close friend of mine with a learning disability was too embarrassed to ask for the help he deserved (and the school was legally required to provide); I always remember him when someone asks for my notes. If they don't truly learn, if they are truly slackers, who am I to judge? Surely, when they do have a job, their employers will know if they slack off. Am I hindering them by helping them (so they learn a lesson later that they can learn now)? Perhaps. But it's not my place to judge them. And it never hurt me to lend my notes

At 2/13/2007 2:23 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


"My point was that this seems to be somewhat anti-Jewish. Our religion is about giving-not receiving."

I see Judaism more about justice - i.e. giving people in accordance to what they deserve. Being charitable is not the same as being a pushover. Most times the people who ask for notes aren't needy, they're simply taking advantage of you.

They are the bums on the street who, while fully capable, refuse to work and when they need money they claim it as a right to take tzedaka. I am very much against fostering that kind of behavior.

At 2/13/2007 5:55 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

orthoprax--never thought I'd say this--but RIGHT ON!!!

At 2/13/2007 6:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey--I remember that day in seminary--I think the girl was comparing it to having a car....she had a car and therefore she offers rides to people the same way that "us notetakers" who have notes, should lend them to her...I couldn't make any sense of that at the time and I tried to explain to her that if we all had the opportunity to "have a car" we'd also give rides--there seems to be no reason that she's in class and can't take notes....
Thanks for refreshing my memory, Michelle.

At 2/13/2007 7:54 PM, Anonymous Lvnsm27 said...

Michelle good point

At 2/14/2007 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually ortho-our religion is about giving WITHOUT judging. Were G-d to judge us, we would surely deserve none of which He has showered on us. And since we are to emulate HIM...

Do we want G-d to judge us? then why would we judge others?

At 2/14/2007 11:21 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


"never thought I'd say this--but RIGHT ON!!!"

Hey, stranger things have happened. ;-)


"actually ortho-our religion is about giving WITHOUT judging"

Ok. Can I have fifty bucks? Contact me privately and you can mail the check to my home.

At 2/14/2007 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok-ortho, deal.

Reminds me of a story with i believe the former Satmar Rebbe. A man came to ask for money, gave him a whole sob story about his daughter's impending marriage and lack of funding, wife's terminal illness etc. etc., and walked out with a VERY generous donation. After he left, the Rebbe's gabbai came in and told the Rebbe that he had just discovered that the man had fabricated the whole story.

Ortho-do you know what this holy man answered?

Baruch Hashem.

Need I say more?

At 2/14/2007 7:38 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


"Need I say more? "

This is great! I also have an amazing deal for you. There's a bridge in Brooklyn that I'm selling, are you interested?

At 2/14/2007 8:56 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Anyway, while Rebbe stories are always nice, if you check out the Gemara there are several instances where it clearly states that some investigation into the legitimacy of the charity is mandated.

For instance, see Bava Basra 10b where "R. Eliezer b. Jacob says: A man should not put a farthing into the charity box unless it is under the supervision of a man like R. Hanina b. Teradion" (Tosfot: Meaning a man as reliable as R. Hanina.)

Further, see Yoreh Deah 249:7 which rules that we must look for worthy causes and the Rama at 256:1 who says that one should not give to a fund of questionable integrity, much less to a faker.

And lastly, we can learn from the word itself. The root of the word tzedaka is tzedek - i.e. justice, not shoteh. It's not the directive of Judaism for you to act the fool.

At 2/15/2007 7:02 AM, Anonymous Ike said...

Besides, even taking the rebbe story seriously (I wonder if it's even true, but whatever) -- keep in mind that the rebbe only found out about the fraud after the fact - so perhaps he felt like it was hashogcho protis that he was supposed to give the guy money, for whatever reason.

But let's say someone had told the rebbe that the guy was a fraud BEFORE the rebbe cut the check? I think we'd see a much different ending.

I don't think the lesson of the story is to give money to just anyone, especially in light of the sources mentioned by Orthoprax.

To me, the lesson is "gam zu l'tova." That's it.

- You've gotta be very careful with interpreting these stories. Some of them aren't even true, and even with the true stories, it's easy to miss the point.

At 2/15/2007 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

absolutely-i agree. No one's saying to be a fool and hand out money. But there is a vast difference between investigating one's legitimacy for tzedakah (we'll all agree that your classmates NEED the notes), and you becoming the judge of whether or not they deserve their present state, if they are strong enough to work....Yes, if you find that they don't need the money and their wife is really not sick, and their daughter is not getting married-by all means don't give them anything. BUT if you find that this man has the ability to work - that is not your business. He needs your help and it is your duty to provide it.

As for the notes, your classmates certainly need your help, whether they should've taken notes or not is absolutely not your business.

Again, I repeat-do you want G-d to look at you and start judging whether you deserve health, parnossah, family...I am fairly certain that almost no one would be deserving of their lot in life.

And finally-don't forget the golden rule-do unto others as thou would have done unto thyself. V'ahavta lireiacha kamocha-would you not want the same treatment were you to be in that situation?

At 2/15/2007 7:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, and ortho, I won't fall for your silly bridge offer-I already bought that bridge. twice.

At 2/15/2007 8:27 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

yes, but i deserve to have a page of my notes lost because I was being a nice guy?
did my friend deserve to have her notes almost destroyed?
People have to treat other people's things well.
They need to put in effort. Why is that so bad? Why shouldn't ppl be required to give SOME effort??????

At 2/15/2007 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelle- that is a whole separate issue. I am merely referring to the way people hold back their notes in general. Most of the time, the notes do come back intact, and even if they get a little bent-is that not a fair price to pay for doing a chesed? That's a whole lot cheaper than doing most chasadim. Again, I am most disturbed by the attitude behind this view - why aren't we relishing the opportunity to give? why are we being petty about whether our notes get bent or whether our classmates were or were not paying attention? You have an opportunity to do such an easy mitzvah-jump on it!

At 2/15/2007 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is by no means excusing those who do not treat other people's property with the appropriate respect. That is inexcusable. However, it does not preclude you from ever lending out notes.

At 2/15/2007 1:47 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...


"He needs your help and it is your duty to provide it."

Yeah, I don't see it that way. It's not my duty to support people who refuse to work.

"As for the notes, your classmates certainly need your help, whether they should've taken notes or not is absolutely not your business."

If they are asking for my help then it becomes my business. You seem to live in a nice fairy tale world where people are never responsible for their own actions.

"Again, I repeat-do you want G-d to look at you and start judging whether you deserve health, parnossah, family..."

I didn't respond to this intentionally. Suffice it to say I don't hold of the same metaphysical views as you.

"And finally-don't forget the golden rule-do unto others as thou would have done unto thyself. V'ahavta lireiacha kamocha-would you not want the same treatment were you to be in that situation?"

Sure, and if was on trial for murder I wouldn't want to go to jail. Therefore I can't send any murderers to prison.

I made my point several times already and that point is simply that I don't reward people for being irresponsible.

At 2/15/2007 5:26 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Orthoprax--I know you've proven your (our) point several times, but don't stop!
As always I appreciate your thoughtul arguments--this one especially since we are on the same page.

Anons: Orthoprax is correct. It becomes my business when they ask for my notes. Why does everyone choose to attack the responsible one who shows up and pays attention? What about the lazy slacker who's asking for the notes? Maybe they're not "jumping on mitzvos," but skipping class, interrupting Rabbis, and disrespecting them by disrupting class and TXTing. Is it worse to do something bad, or not to do something good?

At 2/15/2007 7:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bottom line: I don't care if you're right or wrong, or if you should judge people or not, or if they ruin your notes yada yada yada

My point is that this is somewhat distasteful to me that we should be so selfish and look for reasons not do someone else a favor instead of looking out for reasons TO DO someone a favor-regardless of who's right or wrong. We are bnei avraham-rachmanim, bayshanim, and GOMLEI CHASADIM and let's not forget that...

At 2/16/2007 7:09 AM, Anonymous Ike said...

anon said: We are bnei avraham-rachmanim, bayshanim, and GOMLEI CHASADIM and let's not forget that...

I don't think "pushovers" made the cut.

And there's generally a correlation between the people that are too lazy to work and those who don't care about others' property. The ones that show a lackadaisical attitude towards schoolwork are often the same ones that don't treat the teachers with respect, and don't treat people's notes with respect.

Will there occasionally be a "legitimate" case of someone needing notes? Absolutely. In which case, I think it's wrong for some not to be generous with their notes. But if someone is the type who's lazy and disruptive in class, I wouldn't trust them to return my notes on time, intact, etc.

People work very hard on their notes and take a lot of pride in their work. And I totally understand the frustration of getting notes back in bad shape.

At 2/16/2007 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I see this as a commentary on the education system.
The fact that one can cut every class, read someone else's notes the night before the exam and perform similarly or better than people who sat in class and hung on to every word tells you something about the material taught and the teaching methodology in our schools. (i.e. listen to repetitive slow lecture and passively absorb, vs dynamic give and take, synthesis and creative production)

In high school I didn't take notes. Not because I was lazy, but because I was bored. I left class and did my own reading and learning. Since I was required to go to school and pass exams I got notes from others and did the required memorizing.

I'm thankful to those who lent me their notes. They quite possibly contibuted to saving my sanity.

At 2/18/2007 12:10 AM, Blogger Dofan Akuma said...

my own arrogant rationale for lending my notes: even with all the help of my notes, I will still rock the exam (and your sorry hinie) because it's in the mind, not in the notes

At 2/18/2007 7:45 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Ike-you raise great points in all uyour comments.
Yes, there is certainly a correlation between the two, and there is no reason to be a pushover.

Chesed is certainly admirable, but at whose expense?

In Seminary, we leared that when it comes to Gashmius-you come first, and when it comes to ruchnius, the other comes first, i think.

At 2/18/2007 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If someone asks for your notes, make them pay you the fee for photocopying, photocopy your own notes and give them the copy. You have your notes, they have a copy, and they can't destroy your notes with their dog. I know someone who did this in high school (she actually photocopied them at home for you and didn't even charge a fee) because she didn't want her notes to get lost. I would be annoyed though if someone was constantly asking for my notes and didn't bother writing her own.

At 2/19/2007 9:04 PM, Anonymous Leia said...

Firstly, Michelle, thanks for the interesting post.
Secondly - it's the other way around. Look out for your own ruchniyus and other people's gashmiyus.
And thirdly, which is your problem with lending out notes? That the students "don't deserve it," or that you're afraid they'll be ruined?
I agree with those who've said that it's not up to us to decide who deserves what. It's a chessed to lend out your notes, and I think that people who do are really helping others out. As you quoted, "zeh nehena, v'zeh loh chosser."
You mentioned that something is chosser, that notes may get ruined. If that is your rationale for not lending out notes, then why didn't that stop you from lending your notes to your college classmates (whom I presume you don't know very well, and don't know how they'll treat your notes)?
Please clarify this.

At 2/20/2007 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

easiest way to ensure your notes are not damaged: lend them on condition that they be returned in ten minutes from now, and the first borrower makes you an extra copy. that way there's less time to damage the original and you can lend out the copy for further copying.


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