Monday, June 23, 2008

Down on Their Luck

We are brought up to always think of those less fortunate than ourselves. We are taught that giving tsedaka (charity) should be a natural and ongoing part of our daily lives.

Since moving to Israel I have been surprised by how many people look to benefit from this mindset. I have never had so many strangers arrive at my door, presenting me with pages of neatly displayed endorsement letters from rabbis, requesting their share of the contents of my purse.

It is hard to turn them away; they all have a sob story and have fallen upon hard times. They all look a little ‘weather beaten’ by life. They have ill family members and need help to fund their treatment; they are unable to work due to illness/accident and need help to feed their families… I hate to turn people away. I always think, ‘What a terrible story; what would I do if I was in that position?’

I think maybe that I am starting to become a little Israeli now. I am starting to harden a little. I am beginning to think that, if I was in that position, would I go door to door expecting someone to fund my misfortune?

Tonight I gave someone some money. It was not a lot but it was not a little either. I was a little shocked and upset when he told me that it was not enough, he needed more. I told him that if everyone gave what I did then he would be fine. I closed the door and wondered how I could feel deflated after giving tsedeka.

It is a shame to doubt the authenticity or motivation of some of these people. Certainly if I were (G-d forbid) in any of their situations, and if I did choose to go door to door; I cannot see any circumstance where I would not gratefully receive any money that came my way.

I think from now on 100% of my tsedaka goes through my rabbi or to people I know. I have had enough of being made to feel guilty when trying to do good.

Sharona B