Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Dilemma

So here's the story. There's this one meshulach who comes to my door every couple of months, asking for money to support poor families in Montreal and Tosh, a chasidic 'burb just north of Montreal.
He comes in full regalia, with the black felt hat with a round upturned brim, the long curly peyod down past his shoulders and the long black coat. He refuses to speak Hebrew because it's loshon kodesh and he is very much against Zionism of any kind because the Satmar Rebbe says Zionism is bad and if he said it, Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, might as well have put it into Sefer Devarim.
So for a long time I've been giving him cheques. Fine, I have a principle that anyone who comes with an open hand gets it filled. But then something happened.
We had an Israeli family in town and he knocked at their door too. Before giving him anything, the Israeli man asked him a simple question: If a Dati Leumi family came to you for help, would you give them money?
The answer was a simple: "No, Zionism is wrong and we believe these people are sinning by supporting it so we would not give them money."
Now, kudos to the guy for his honesty, especially for telling it to an Israeli and naturally the guy closed his wallet and told the meshulach to get lost but it got me thinking, seeing as I'm a Dati Leumi and all.
The Torah gives us two very difficult mitzvos to perform: thou shalt not revenge and thou shalt not take a grudge.
On the face of it, the value of these mitzvos to help create a functional society cannot be overstated. But did you ever stop and think about how hard not holding a grudge can be?
Think about my case, for example. Knowing that if our positions were reversed, he would leave me to die in the gutter I should still give him the cheque the next time he comes. After all, to withhold it would be saying "I'm not going to help you because you wouldn't help me", clearly a case of taking revenge.
The alternative, to hand him the cheque and say "Here, I'm a better Jew than you because even though I think you and your Satmar friends are totally on the wrong track and a bunch of sonei Yisrael, I will still help you." That would be not holding a grudge.
But then what do I do, knowing what I know about him? I can't simply sit there, listen to his shpeil and not think about how giving him money shows that I'm better than him.
So I'm asking: any suggestions?

17 comments:

E-Man said...

You should give him the money because that IS what Moshe Rebbeinu would do.

DaveK said...

Tell him to F-off, to get a real job, and join the real world!

The hatred that emanates against fellow is inexcusable and NO, Moshe would not give the guy the money especially because he is so openly hateful.

Manya Shochet said...

I hope I would donate towards the same needy people through another venue. The meshulach's attitude is pretty shocking.

Garnel Ironheart said...

E-man, I agree that Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, would give him the money. Probably most of Chazal would too. But that shows that they are capable of thinking and emoting beyond the simple level I'm stuck at. They could say "It's a mitzvah and I have no personal feelings, just as I don't when I put on tefillin". I'm not there.

DaveK, if he was collecting for himself, I would agree with your answer. But he's not doing it for himself. In fact, he does have a real job and hounding me for money is it.

Manya, here in town we have a Jewish social services that essentially does the same thing and believe me I give them as much as I can. But the lady who runs it is the 180 degree opposite of this guy.

David said...

"Fine, I have a principle that anyone who comes with an open hand gets it filled."

Do I have to go all the way to Canada, or could you just wire the funds into my account here?

Leaving that aside, allow me to add another twist to this. Forget whether he'd give you anything. Isn't the real issue that people like you are enabling a lifestyle with which you disagree? If the bum could sustain his existence without coming to wretched sinners like you, he would-- if he can't sustain his existence at all, maybe his kids will, of necessity, wind up doing something better. Why stand in the way of that?

Garnel Ironheart said...

There's a balance in these things. On one hand, David, your point is quite correct: I am sustaining a lifestyle I disagree with while he is living that lifestyle because of people he can't stand. Perfectly dysfunctional, hence perfectly Jewish.

However, I do think there is some value in giving to the poor, even the idiotic ones because it trains one to be more ready to share one's possessions. The opposite, investigating and only giving to the truly worthy, can go to the other extreme where nobody gets anything because the standards are so high. Neither is great but if I have to err, I'll err on the side of generosity, I guess.
And besides, all this is lost on them because I've tried that line on people and they look blankly at me and then hold their hands out.

David said...

If it's about training yourself to be more giving, then you could feel really swell about yourself by giving your single malt whisky to an alcoholic. Still, maybe not such a good idea, and, even if arguably generous, certainly not in the alcoholic's best interest.

So, if you have the courage of your own convictions, perhaps the virtuous thing to do here is to quit enabling the guy.

Anonymous said...

Well the, give the amount you would have given him to the Jewish social services. I've been very disappointed by some of the things I've seen in the world of chesed here. Bad people manipulating others, being dishonest, and a lot of good people not getting what they really need, because, let's face it, the tzedakah pie is limited.

I keep a pinkas, and when I am asked for a donation by someone who seems suspicious, I write it down and give an amount to an organization I trust. This way I still "train my hand" to give, but without doing collateral damage.

When I was in nursing school at Hadassah, we did a rotation at a local mental hospital. According to the director, a lot of their patients who are assigned to sheltered workshops go out begging instead, which makes giving them conter-therapeutic. Onthe other hand, I have a list of well-managed sheltered workshops who use myma'aser money quite well.

I really think there is a moral issue involved in deciding who gets the money. Just giving to everybody doesn't address this, and perpetuates a lot of social problems. The underlying assupption of the liberal chessed-giver is to make HIMSELF feel better, not necessarily to do good. In general, my notepad keeps me from just being a self-righteous cheapskate, at least in regard to charitable donations.

Manya Shochet said...

The above comment was moi, Manya Shochet.

David said...

Ooh! Better yet! Next time he comes to your door, brain him with a poker, then take everything he's collected from his wallet and donate all of it, plus 10% to a respectable Dati Leumi charity! This will: 1) not promote his aberrant and unhealthy lifestyle; 2) train your hand to both charity and tochacha; 3) support a charity you like; and 4) be enjoyable. Well, not so much for him.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Yeah, but what if someone comes looking for him? Carrying a garbage bag with blood dripping out of it (Home Depot has chainsaws, I think) around town is a wee bit suspicious.

I like Manya's point: am I doing it for the mitzvah or the feelgood that comes with handing out the cheque? I dunno....

Manya Shochet said...

David--If it's enyoyable and fun, it's probably assur.

Dr Mike said...

Murphy's law teaches that anything good in life is either illegal, immoral or fattening.

Abandoning Eden said...

wait so this guy is a professional beggar? Then arn't you actually hurting him by giving him money, because you are enabling him to keep up this lifestyle and not have to try for a real job? That whole "giving a man a fish vs. teaching him to fish" thing..

Also, jewish or not, if someone repeatedly came to my house asking me for money I would assume they had a drug problem. how come no one ever assumes this if the dude has a big beard? This whole practice is so weird to me.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Hi AE and welcome,

Generally these guys work through established laundering funds. The cheque isn't made out to them (you're an idiot to give them straight cash) but rather to the fund which has a charity tax number. So I get a receipt, the schnorrer gets 90% of what's on the cheque and the fund gets the rest for "administrative expenses".

And no, He's not a professional beggar. He's a fundraiser. The outfit is completely different...

David said...

Garnel,
Your objection to my plan is shortsighted. You're a freakin' doctor, for crying out loud. Put him in a duffel bag, take him to the cadaver lab and anatomize the snot out of him. It's Canada, dude-- socialized medicine; the accounting is all fudged to begin with, so an extra stiff will hardly be noticed.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

David, like I said, it's not the cadaver lab I'm worried about. It's those cheap Made-in-America garbage bags that leak all over the place...

Okay, let's stop this now, shall we?