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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

TZEDAKKAH- THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MITZVAH


TZEDAKKAH- THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MITZVAH

Ever read those sugar sweet tales in the Hamodia or in books? The ones where a grandfather is portrayed as wisdom incarnated, and the parents are both humble and kind souls whose kids are good but basically complete morons whose level of naiveté would render even Homer Simpson jealous.
Well I did and still do, and I noticed that a persistently recurring theme is a lesson in the art and importance of donating Tzedakkah.(charity)
The stories teach that donating with a smile and with patience is so much more of a Mitsvah.
That Tzedakkah given in a pleasant manner brings about salvation and wonderful Hasgacha Pratis instances.
The urgency with which this message is propagated in heimische papers and in Drashos reflects the hard times we’re living in, a decade in which so (too) many people are in dire need of financial assistance.


Those who pray in a Shul everyday morning, afternoon and evening know that people’s patience is often put to the test.
You’re about to put on Teffilin (phylacteries) and someone ask for Tzedakah, he thanks and goes, at the same time another person touches you on the shoulder from the other side, his cause is extremely important and would like just a second to explain why 5 dollars isn’t going to cut it.


From marrying off children to supporting the resulting offspring, sometimes you wonder if you’re really not much wealthier than you thought.

Some collectors come to our door with truly sad accounts that break our hearts and compels us to help them as much a possible, others are there to make sure their children’s simchos aren’t marred by immediate financial worries, and of course the representatives of various Yeshivahs and Kollels know to find their way to our homes an offices.

The sums they need or have a responsibility to accumulate are quite often staggering.
Yet they don’t let the odds deter them from traveling far and wide and do their utmost best.
Giving to these men, women and children forces us to extend our hand and open our hearts. Looking at it with this outlook it’s actually they who make us the favor; we become better spouses, better friends, simply better people, by giving to strangers.

Shnorrers as they are scornfully called sometimes can be found everywhere, from the Shul to the park, in the streets and in stores.

They can also be found at weddings and various Simchas.
I wonder if there are places where it would be inappropriate for collectors to show up.
It’s known that women who are alone at home prefer not to open the door to strange men, and in my opinion it’s a very safe and intelligent way to act.
Even assuming that most men are honest collectors and far from dangerous, children home alone should not open the door to strangers.

I remember being all alone when a guy kept ringing the bell, deducing someone was home from the noise or light. I didn’t want to open yet he didn’t stop ringing and I got scared. I called my neighbor from upstairs to come down, fortunately he came and the guy left.

At Simchahs is it proper for them to show up? (Uninvited might I add) . On the other hand they have a chance of encountering people from other cities and countries which they might not meet somewhere else.

In Shul if a big number of charity seekers are present does it keep the congregation from praying with sufficient Kavanah(concentration) ?

Do you think there are times and places when asking for Tzedakkah would be inappropriate? Where and When?

Comments:
The way I look at it is, that by giving the tzedaka my davining will be received better up there, so while sometimes its a bit annoying, its a mitzvah that's usually worth the hassle.
 
i think anytime during davening is wrong to ask for money (except the shul's puskha). I think the collectors should place themselves at the door and one can give them whatever they want, on the way in or out of shul. I know it is not as convienient for them (or the mispallalim) but it will allow us to keep our concentration during davening and not upset us. I give more money if someone comes up to me after davening than I do if they disturb me during tefila.
 
yes, i do believe that asking for tzedaka should be done at the right time and place. I do not think that collectors who go around shul and disturb the tefilla is not appropriate. if they must, they can ask before or after tefilla and people would probably be more inclined to give when they have not been bothered at the wrong time and they can do the mitzvah pleasantly.
One cannot control how many people go door to door collecting, particularly around the times of chagim and it is up to the discretion of the household whether to answer the door or give, depending on their own personal situation. (Personally, I do not feel comfortable when a Charedi collector knocks on the door and does not speak much english and looks away because am female. I usually call a male that is the house to speak to them.)
purim is the one time though, that we do not refuse tzedaka to anyone that comes to door.
If one wants to collect tzedaka at a simcha they are not invited to, i think that if they speak to the ba'al simcha and are very discreet they have more of a chance of finding what they need as opposed to simply trying to collect without permission to be there. But it's up to each collector as to how they conduct themselves and it is up to each individual to give as they choose, within their means.
 
The Real- good to see you again. Good point of view, with this attitude I’m sure you’re giving with all you heart.

Almost frye – Thanks for stopping by.
It’s a good idea. But would it really work? People coming in and out of Shul, especially in the morning are in such a hurry that I’m afraid many people would not take the time to stop.

Sarah- Thanks for your comment to my post.. Your example of ringing the door but not looking at women is a good one, there someone wants money from you but he won’t give you the courtesy of looking at you, I don’t know exactly what to think of this.
As for purim you’re right but even then there should be limits, I for one refuse to give drunkards.
 
I think the kotel should be off-limits. We go to pray and becoem more spiritual so it is not appropriate
ps thanks for your comments on my hot topic-u r still young and learning about married life, that is fine
 
Wow, tough questions! I don't know if I can really come up with my own answers. I do admit, there is this one man who often comes for charity at many shul events, simchas, shirium, etc. When I first moved to my neighborhood, I would give to him with a smile. Now I must admit that now that I've been there a bit, and found that just about all those in need just approach the local Rabbonim and they have funds set up for tzedaka - I only give change here and there to this gentlemen. I don't know his story, but for those of the receiving end, it is also a mitzvah not to make your plight obvious to the community - to handle the situation in pride. I'm am not one to judge others, but I just have a feeling that this particular gentlemen is taking a bit of advantage of the generiousity of the Orthodox community.
 
I think tzedakah is a very important mitzvah and I give all the time not only to collectors but to organizations that I believe in dont pocket the money (gotta look into such things, it is shocking but there is no shame it seems to such things these days!) but do really good things with it. Like Tomchei Shabbos, etc. I rarely turn a person away, too. But there are times I do and here is when:

I think it is very inappropiate for people to bother others in restaurants by shoving certificates in your face when you are sitting down to eat with the family or friends.

I believe that when a person gives tzedakah to street collectors or home collectors it is wrong to start petitioning for more money or other things. You obviously give as much as you can! Just yesterday a woman asked me for money on the street and I gave with a smile as I always do... but to then demand I take her shopping for groceries... that is a whole new low! OR about the lady who demanded I go and get her a slice of pizza? I feel bad on one hand... but on the other....!
 
Good post!

Charity: probably the best way to say good-bye to your money and guaranteed that you won't be missing it (when doing it right, of course.)

What drives me nuts however is the kinda guy who is collecting 'cuz he is stranded and needs money for the train, glad to help him out of course, but its not cool when these people come day after day with the same need, how many times can you get stranded for g-ds sake!
Truth is (and as I remember learning,) if someone ask's give, what he does with it is another story, but yet I really dont feel that great giving to CERTAIN people knowing it goes to drugs/alcohol and other junk.

And yeh when I sit down to do my little bit of studying with my chavrusah and actualy start learning, and someone comes over for charity I definitely will not be in the most giving mood...
 
Datingmaster – In Israel I’m basically a tourist so at the Kotel I generally don’t mind, but I can understand that people who go there daily to pray can be disturbed by Tzedakkah collectors.

Misshona – It’s so unfortunate but some people do take advantage, knowing that most donators won’t check out backgrounds and stuff..
How many stories of fake Chassidim haven’t I heard? They come to the door, say a few words in Yiddish, walk away with the cash and tear off the fake beard and side curls!
If I’m not mistaken in Switzerland people are advised to donate only to people who have a certificate validated by the head of the community. Now that’s a good system

Frumgirl- I got to admit that I’ve never had that in a restaurant but I know I’d be very annoyed if that would happen!
You sure attract the chutspaddike ones. Grocery shopping? What’s next pick up her laundry?
I was once by Eichlers when a lady inside the store asked me for change, I said I didn’t have any, when I came out with a purchase, she was waiting for me by the entrance “now you have change??.
And I have a sneaking suspicion she wasn’t even Jewish.

Chassidische shagitz- During learning it’s very frustrating, you’re about to grasp that Tosafos when….
It’s always a worry when giving in the street, how do you know it’s not for drugs and excessive alcohol?
What do you do when a smoking schnorrer approaches you?
 
I cannot stand beggars. It just irks me. I don't give to them. I give heavily through my shul and other Jewish and secular agencies that help the homeless. I don't like being harrassed by them on the street.
 
Generally I stay away from the street and train vendors. I prefer to give to the jewish peole in need.I have to say most mornings, I'm guilty of running by even those too, in a rush to the train.
I have a bunch of full pushkas in my house. what do I do with those?
 
I think a system should be put into place..like there was in Pre-war kehillos of Europe.
There was Kehilla and a Gabbai Tzedaka. Everyone gave to him..and he with a commitee decided who was worthy to get and how much.
The problem..is shnorring becomes an addiction many people who at first really need the money..overcome their shame..and then get hooked on this easy way of making money instead of trying to get jobs.
 
What an interesting post.

TO me, Tzedakkah, is not just giving of our money, but also giving of our time to others. As to whether it should be off limit raises an interesting question.

The point of doing tzedakkah is that it helps us ultimately, not the person to who we give. By doing good deeds, whatever they are, we repent, and it makes the severity of the decree (at least this is the message on Rosh Hashana) less severe.)
 
Stacey- I understand, I’d rather give through established organizations as well.

Rbr- Indeed there’s plenty of worthy Jewish causes to donate too.
In the morning it’s understandable you don’t want to stop, I remember what difference catching a train 5 minutes earlier could make. Besides in crowded areas sometimes it’s not such a good idea to open a wallet or purse.

David –I’ve always reasoned that Shnorrers deserve Tzedakkah for the sole reason that they must have no other options, apparently I wasn’t completely right.
It reminds me of this guy who was obviously a smart fellow coming to our door every Sunday, we remarked that the guy probably calculated he mad more money and faster than to get a job this way.
A system would be ideal, in Switzerland there is one, I think it’ works very well.


Barbara- Actually giving of your time is one f the greatest forms of Tzedakkah, too few people actually do that.
It’s beautiful to give Tzedakkah and feeling the way you do about it and any Mitzvah (good deed) is there as an heavenly advocate for us on the day of judgment.
 
PRAG_NEWSFLAsH_today i gave tsedoka to 2 beggars in Ben Yehuda st in your name so your blog is earning you mitsvahs!
 
Datingmaster- That is so thoughtful of you, thank you it's really appreciated!
 
I agree, prag.

When DM gets outside of himself, hopefully, he will find the meaning of joy.

I have posted again, but am limiting myself because of time constraints.
 
I think it is not so much the time or place as much as the approach. As someone else commented, you shouldn't be proud of asking for charity. It is never appropriate for someone to demand money, keep ringing the doorbell, or get up in the person's face. I could imagine a desperate emergency when you would plead with someone who has said no or only given a small amount, but even then in an urgent way rather than a rude way. (Of course, some people actually have psychological problems affecting this behavior - which is why as givers we judge the person favorably.)

I do think that if there is a fund set up by the shul or community in an accesible way (not involving a ton of paperwork), the person should be politely directed to the right place to ask. For example, one shul we used to attend would regularly collect tzedakah, and people who came in for collecting during minyan would be nicely informed to go straight to the rabbi - and that they would get more money that way.
 
Unfortunately too many beggars seem to have some sort of condition, we must judge favorably but that is easier said than done especially when they knock at inopportune moments (in the middle of dinner)

Thanks for stopping by
 
I live in a suburb that's not particularly Jewish, so I have never once gotten a real door-to-door shnorrer...and perhaps because of this, I have always wanted to get one. Probably if I did, I would quickly become annoyed with them, since I tend to be very offended by people coming up to me at the Kotel or on the street and asking for money. I always tend to give to them anyway, out of a general feeling of guilt, but I would prefer it if they went through legitimate tzedaka organizations, to which I tend to give more money, since they are more trustworthy and efficient.
 
If you want to experience it just once, ask a friend in Boro Park or Monsey if you can be their guest for a day or two:)
thanks for stopping by
 
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