Rav Baruch Fried Case: Reuven was in the middle of working out a complex business…
Rabbi Yosef Kushner
When it comes to non-Jewish acquaintances, (where there exists an expectation of reciprocation or maintaining the relationship) it isn’t a problem of “lo sichanem” and you can buy them a gift. Where does this question come in? Most people do not just walk around the street giving out gifts.
An interesting case that someone spoke to Rav Nissan Kirelitz about is that he had a worker who is retiring from a company after many years, and wants to give him a parting gift. Rav Kirelitz said that it is an issur of lo sichanem, as the relationship is coming to an end, and you will not be receiving anything in return. However one has to know the variables of the situation. If it is the accepted practice for everyone in a company to receive a gift, and you don’t give him one, this would most likely fall under darkei shalom, and would cause eiva (enmity) if you did not give it to him. However, if one is going above and beyond to give a gift that is more than what is necessary, that may be an issue.
There is another common case when one is on an airplane and he has extra food, or doesn’t want to eat his meal, so he wants to offer it to the Akum on either side of him. One would have to weigh the situation, if he would be receiving some benefit, for instance, it is a long flight and the person is in the aisle, and he will need to get out multiple times – that may be allowed. But if it is just to give it, with nothing in return, and you won’t see this person again, that would seem to be an issue.
There is a misconception that needs to be clarified. Many people say that they like to give gifts to create a proactive Kiddush Hashem. There is a halacha by aveida of an Akum that one should not return it. The Sma explains that you are being mezalzel in the mitzvah of hashavas aveida because since there is no mitzvah to return it, it seems that you are doing it just to be “nice”, but not for the mitzvah itself. It is not a problem of lo sichanem because it belongs to him. It is brought down that because of kiddush Hashem, it is “praiseworthy” to give it back.
However there is no such heter by lo sichanem, because Hashem said not to give gifts, so you can’t say that I will be mekadesh Hashem by doing it, where Hashem told you otherwise. There are still the other heterim of eiva and makiro, as discussed previously.