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Monday, November 10, 2008

But He Gives So Much Tzedakah. . . . . . . .

Seems the cases involving serious lack of yashrut continue to (sadly) clog up the news board over at Vos Iz Neias. What sets about dishonest dealings in the frum community apart from dishonest dealings in the general community are the beneficiaries. One of the primary beneficiaries in the frum community is (r"l) the rest of the community, either directly or indirectly, be it through Tomchei,

The main defense that plays out again again is that those who have found themselves in serious trouble with the law is that they are ba'alei tzedakah. I don't believe one can fulfill the mitzva of tzedakah on someone else's dime, be it the unpaid employee or corporation, the investor who was tricked by false representation, or the taxpayer.

Given the flimsy defense "but he is a ba'al tzedakah" one cannot help but notice the disconnect between earning an honest dollar and being able to give tzedakah. As a parent, we all want our children to make certain connections in their developing minds about how the world works. One connection many parents hope to imprint into young minds is that "money doesn't grow on trees." Making this connection involves demonstrating and enforcing delayed gratification, prioritizing, and (yes) saying "no."

A connection that the parents who wants to make yashrut a natural quality, no doubt wants their children to understand that tzedakah also does not "grow on trees." Yet, how do we teach our children about giving tzedakah? Outside my own son's school door it would appear that tzedakah money does "grow on trees." The coins that the children bring are that of their parents.

I don't believe I've ever been accused of being too conventional. This year we decided it was time to help our children make a concrete connection between working and giving tzedakah, and we established a system of payment for chores that go above our basic call of duty. (Before you read on, please note that I discussed this less than conventional plan with the kodesh teacher who liked the idea very much).

Now when my son does a large project for me that is beyond basic expectations like putting dirty socks in the laundry and dishes in th sink, I count out pennies for him before bedtime. We don't have to pay much at this age, but most jobs pay ten pennies (putting away folded laundry). Once he is paid, he separates his pennies into two stacks, earnings and tzedakah. I explain to him each time that he can choose to give either 1 or 2 pennies to tzedakah and the rest goes into his piggy bank.

I don't know how long I will continue this system (perhaps when he raids his piggy bank and discovers he can't buy much), but as it stands right now, I'm very happy with the results. He shows a great amount of pride in taking his own money to school to put in the tzedakah box. He rarely forgets to take a penny in the morning and getting everything ready for school gives him a lot of purpose because he has ownership. And, he volunteers to do 'work' when he sees the coins in his tzedakah jar diminish.

I hope my children make he connection between making an honest living and giving an honest dollar. I'm sure that they will have plenty of time to be exposed to the 'dan l'chaf zechut' of much of the Orthodox community. But before they are exposed to every defense under the sun for dishonesty, I hope we can train their reflexes so that yashrut is the natural impulse.


arnie draiman said...

right on! both about those people ('but they give tzedakah') and teaching your child/ren how to give.

now,the next step is where to give. you need to be sure that all tzedakah is given to people and places that use it efficiently and effectively. if you give to a place that has high overhead (anything over 15% for sure), then you are actually stealing from the poor person who is supposed to be the recipient. (al tigzol dal kee dal hu - mishlei 22:22 and the various comments on it, particularly bamidbar rabba 5:2).

therefore, ask the non-profit for a copy of last year's financial report. if you think they are overspending on themselves and underspending on those who need it...then don't give to them!

arnie draiman

Anonymous said...

The reason that the large donations to tzedukah are mentioned is that:
1)Although the money was gained illegally, it was not only used to make the businessman rich, but was used to benefit the community, and
2)In the merit of his tzedukah, may he not have to serve time in jail, where it would be hard to be a yid.
Others who have broken the same law were not punished as severely. Because we are Jewish, possibly more is expected of us.
The sad thing is that is gives a message to many that it is impossible to live a frum life in America without committing fraud. I don't know if the frum community is ready to give up high gashmius expectations. Recently a friend, a woman of modest means, celebrated the engagement of a son. She wanted to give the kallah a necklace and the frum sales person told her that the $1000 that she wanted to spend was too small of an amount; that most people spent more. If that is what is expected of the average Jewish family, we will (chas v'sholem)see people who feel that they have no recourse but to gain the money illegally. (The friend did stay within her budget, despite the pressure from the saleswoman.)

anonymous mom said...

I decided a long time ago, with love in my heart (I mean it), that my Chareidi brothers lost their marbles a long time ago. I'm not sure we can even get them back anymore. I feel so discouraged by the responses I hear to the recent election and the emphases on the wrong priorities in life and Torah that I honestly do not know how to talk to these people (my friends and relatives) anymore and I thank Hashem every day that my family is off this track. Yashrus is alive in Modern Orthodoxy. This balogney would never be excused in Highland Park or Teaneck.

Ariella said...

You are 100% correct on that. I've been shortchanged by frum Jews who seem to think they are not bad people for cheating and effectively stealing because they have done some favors for others in the past.
Truly if they are giving tzedaka with money that they owe to me (or any other debtor) they don't deserve credit for the mitzvah at at all; it is done with stolen property.

I think what you do with the pennies is terrific -- and ethics, money, and math lesson all in one. You can also then move on to coin values -- how many pennies for a nickel, a dime, a quarter, etc.

Anonymous said...

As it so often does, here too it comes down to a simple halachic question. It is assur to be makdish ill-gotten gains. Period. The FACT is, the mosdos and other beneficiaries of these funds, SHOULD retroactively return the "donations", and refuse to associate with the criminals who thus connected them and their ostensibly holy purpose to such dirty dealings.

Think we'll ever live to see the day?

SephardiLady said...

Anonymous-When that day comes I will happily shut down this blog.