Monday Morning in Jerusalem

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23 Responses

  1. Ori says:

    Such innocence is undeniably beautiful. But it can also be deadly, if one isn’t prepared for the fact that the world of men (and women) is as full of lies as the proverbial pomegranate is full of seeds.

    We need to teach our kids to defend themselves, mentally and physically. The method I use is to lie to them, but make sure the lies are such they know they are lies. Then they’re supposed to tell me I’m wrong. For example, from about the age of two I tell them “you are a cat”. They correct me.

    It seems to be working. When my oldest was four, we had an argument about the word phone. He insisted on spelling it fone. He was wrong, but I was proud of the fact he corrected me based on his knowledge.

  2. Naftali says:

    Several years ago I received heterim from prominent Rosh HaYeshivahs to expose an organization that stole or wasted many millions of dollars in tzedakah money.

    When I tried to warn people about this crooked organization, I was frequently accused of Sinat Chinam and Lashon HaRa.

    About half the Orthodox Jews I spoke to told me that this crooked organization should be permitted to tell as many lies as they want and steal as much money as they want, so long as they help a few people.

    The result was that I was portrayed as the evil one because I tried to warn people, while the crooked organization that destroyed many millions of dollars in Jewish tzedakah money was surrounded by a halo of innocence and righteousness.

  3. Phil says:

    Ori, I’m not arguing with your gist, but I think it is proper that when a child wants to correct a parent, he should do so in the form of a question.

    PS: The Klausenberger Rebbe’s speech about that Jew from India can be found at a website called

  4. Ori says:

    Phil, tact is very important, but I think it’s for older kids. My oldest is seven, and we’re trying to teach him tact now. But tact often involves subtle deceit (asking a question when you’re perfectly sure of the answer, for example). Younger kids have enough problems distinguishing truth from falsehood. My three year girls only recently stopped asking me if they are girls, or if their brothers are boys.

  5. SE says:

    And what of shutting down of this specious organization? At the very least to rid our society of the untruthfulness that plagues it, must we not eradicate those image-defacing deceptions that do come to light?

  6. Observer says:

    Rabbi Leff’s response to your friend was clearly the right one. However, there may be another point that may be relevant sometimes. That is that the first Rabbi she asked was so focused on the short term, and real, needs of her family, that he didn’t focus on what her former boss had done. Not that he thought it was ok, but that’s not what he was thinking about. Obviously, you have to look at the entire picture, and he clearly realized that his thinking might be off. In short, not that he gave her the correct advice, but his mistake may have been because he was suffering from a bit of tunnel vision, rather than any level of acceptance of the man’s actions.

  7. lacosta says:

    forgive me if i misunderstand. a rov sets up a fraudulent tzedaka organization that could get the employee arrested, and a leading light says ignore it, it’s a mistake? it sounds more like what another blogger wrote this week–that it seem that in parts of the Orthodox world, miscreants get a free pass. What am i missing?

  8. NH says:

    The failure of the writer and the subject to publicize the name of the organization may well involve several transgressions. Consider not only the ongoing financial losses to contributors, but the diversion of funds from the truly needy, not to mention an achrayus toward the person who will replace the subject at her job.

  9. Milhouse says:

    What if the director was telling the truth? What if he and his own wife and children really were in dire need, so that he was justified in taking tzedakah for them? We haven’t been told anything about how much money he was taking, or what sort of lifestyle he was leading. But if he was unable to find work that would support his family, and was too ashamed to go begging openly for himself, why would he not be justified in doing this?

  10. Jewish Observer says:

    “What if the director was telling the truth? What if he and his own wife and children really were in dire need, so that he was justified in taking tzedakah for them? We haven’t been told anything about how much money he was taking, or what sort of lifestyle he was leading. But if he was unable to find work that would support his family, and was too ashamed to go begging openly for himself, why would he not be justified in doing this?”

    – Not sure if you are asking seriously, but from a checks and balances point of view you obviously cannot have someone assigning money to himself. He has an obvious conflict of interest regarding criticality of need compared to others, and amount. The fact that he didn’t is a clear warning flag.

  11. Milhouse says:

    I am asking seriously. This isn’t a question of checks and balances. You don’t condemn someone as a ganef, and tell a woman who depends on her income to quit her job, because of principles of transparency and best practices. Nor do you tell someone to subject his children to poverty because of such principles. They’re very much in the category of “syag”, not “din”. I repeat, how do we know that this director was not telling his secretary the honest truth, that he takes the money to support his family because he needs it? The donors get the mitzvah they bargained for, and he doesn’t have to reduce himself to begging at doors.

  12. Ken Bloom says:

    Observer: The woman was very distraught about the possibility you’re suggesting. She felt (and Rabbi Leff agreed) that no matter the difficult situation of her family, the actions of the organization she was working for were so far out of line that nothing could justify her continuing to work for them, and that nobody should be losing sight of the fact that the organizations actions are that bad.

    lacosta: Rabbi Leff assumed that a mistake had been made in presenting the situation, and that no reasonable rav could have permitted her to keep working there. If someone’s Hebrew is bad enough that the facts on the ground are not properly presented/understood, then that is a mistake.

  13. Observer says:

    To #9 – So you are saying that a man who can run a scam this sophisticated really, really couldn’t find gainful employment? I suppose it’s possible. But, does that justify deception? There is no possible doubt that if people had known that they were giving money for this man and his children a large proportion would have reacted very differently. He also clearly mislead his employee, and it’s hard to see any justification for that, either. So, even in the very best case, pulling out all the stops I can think of for Diyun Lekaf zechus, this man lied and deceived people to get their money. I think she was 100% right to be horrified.

  14. another Nathan says:

    Blanket prohibitions on lies are very warm and fuzzy, but not necessarily appropriate. For an extreme example, what if an evil person wants information, and will probably use it to cause harm? Do you have to tell him the truth? Our Avot twisted the truth on occasion, and while our meforshim explain the motives, they don’t change the fact of the twisting. And despite his technique for obtaining his father’s bracha, Yaakov Avinu is still known for ’emet.” Maybe it’s a translation issue, but “emet” and telling only the truth are not identical concepts.

  15. Jewish Observer says:

    “do you tell someone to subject his children to poverty because of such principles”

    – if they are truly deserving why wouldn’t they qualify through normai channels? Without a fair process, how do you know that more dersrving people wern;t denied support?

    “They’re very much in the category of “syag”, not “din””

    – I disagree. Were I a donor I would surely give on tnai / assumption that a fair process will be used to disbursing the $. Why shouldn’t breaking that process be a concrete halachic viloation?

  16. Milhouse says:

    #13, I don’t see anything in the story to suggest any great sophistication. All I see is that he printed up a brochure about helping needy kids. As for deception, sure it’s not nice, but can he afford to be nice? The question is whether anyone is really harmed. Donors who gave to an institution that helps needy children, but wouldn’t have given to an individual, are getting the same mitzvah they bargained for; are they really hurt? Did he mislead his employee, or did she just not ask the right questions? And again, even if he misled her, could it not be justified, not only to provide for his own family but for hers as well? She was bringing home an income, thinking that she had a normal job and had no reason to feel ashamed; is that so wrong?

    The core question here is: Is this man’s behaviour wrong per se, or is it only inadvisable, bad public policy, tending to create room for corruption, contrary to “best practice”, etc. Is he a rasha, or is he merely not a tzadik? And, if the latter, can he afford to be a tzadik? Must he sacrifice his dignity for the sake of these high ideals, and resort to openly begging for himself?

  17. lacosta says:

    if you all can justify these various definitions of emes [ like clinton’s what do you mean ‘is’] then i think i will not be able to give tzedaka to any collecting mossad— because i would like to know what i am giving to . you all may have no problem with this type of emes . i think it is just another example, unfortunately, of not being able to make a sentence out of the 3 words orthodox , money , trust —
    and it didnt used to be that way. maybe this is the effect of 2 torah generations where torah is the only value and work is the ugliest 4 letter word…..

  18. Sarah Shapiro says:

    Some of the above comments are almost too revealing, surprisingly so, of the mindset that would make financial deception by an observant Jew possible. The back-and-forth is as fascinating to me as it is horrifying.

  19. Samuel Svarc says:

    #18, I find the shoe quite on the other foot here. Mr. Milhouse has made some very valid points that no one has bothered to address.

    Suggestions have been made to publically embarass the director (#5 and #2) as well as your friend leaving her job and source of livelihood. While these can be considered in a theoretical way, they are, in the end, halachic questions and I don’t see any sort of anlysis here beyond some serious hand waving. And as the tone of #17 shows, some serious self examination is needed here.

    As an IT professional currently going for his Masters in IS, the son of a CPA, my questioning your “blood lust” for another Jew’s embarrassment stems fron no aversion to work but rather a simple concern for Emes. “What does the Torah want?”

  20. lacosta says:

    milhouse , i can now reasonably assume that any chareidi collector/mossad has your morals and will [not] give them accordingly

    sara shapiro , sadly this ‘kosher gneiva’ amongst achim , is magnified in business, leading to chassidishe shechita in the federal penitentiary system….

  21. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Those who wish to examine the halachic sources on the propriety of deception for the purpose of extracting a larger donation for tzedaka should look at Pischei Choshen (R Yaakov Blau) vol. 4 15:7:22 and Tzedaka U-Mishpat (same author) 7:2:5* Helpful also is Shut Shevet HaLevi (R Wosner) vol.2 119

  22. SE says:

    milhouse, as to your questioning the degree of sophistication of the organization, it is apparently complex enough to require the hiring of a secretary (naturally at the expense of the donors tzedakah).
    Furthermore, the jist of your arguments – that the breach of truth may be justified if it comes to spare the director the humiliation of begging – I personally find repugnant. Perhaps stealing would be appropriate to prevent the humiliation? Where do you draw the line? Where is the justification for raising the prevention of shame to the top of the moral totem pole?

  23. Bob Miller says:

    Lack of transparency is a major problem, and not only for our charitable organizations. Many of what we like to think of as community institutions are really totally private and have no accountability to customers/clients, our public or our leaders. That’s not to say these necessarily do a poor job or have something to hide, but, if any are that way, it’s very hard to know.

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