Volume 28 Number 37
                      Produced: Sun Nov 29 14:48:44 1998

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Schnorring 1 (was Tzedakah During Tefilah)
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Schnorring 2 (was Tzedakah, Work Ethic and Weddings)
         [Carl M. Sherer]


From: Carl M. Sherer <carl@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 15:44:23 +0200
Subject: Schnorring 1 (was Tzedakah During Tefilah)

Warren Burstein writes:

> On a related subject, I've come across two classes of people who ask for
> tzedakah here in Israel that puzzle me.
> 1) Obviously poor people with receipts from a yeshiva.  Normally, people
> collecting for themselves don't pass out receipts.  Are they employed by
> the yeshiva?  Are these receipts bogus?  If so, should I care if person
> #1 asks me for money for a nonexistant yeshiva when it's likely that he
> needs money for himself?  If he picked my pocket, his economic status
> wouldn't matter to me.

As I understand it, people approach Yeshivos with the proposition that
they will go out and collect money for the Yeshiva and in return they
will receive some portion of the money they collect. How large a portion
that is will vary from arrangement to arrangement, and can often be
quite a high percentage. The Yeshivos do it because they are perfectly
happy to have someone they don't have to pay go around and collect for
them. And the people begging do it, because it feels much more
comfortable (apparently - B"H I have never tried it) to ask for money
for a Yeshiva than to ask for money for oneself.

> 2) People with shtriemels asking for tzedakah (I don't recall if the
> person I mentioned at the top was wearing one, but I certainly have seen
> shtriemel wearers in shul on Purim and other occasions asking for
> tzedakah).  Is it wrong for me to think that a person ought to sell this
> very expensive garment and buy a wool cap before asking for tzedakah?

Chazal tell us that one who asks for Tzedakah when s/he does not need it
will not leave this earth without needing Tzedakah (sorry, I don't have
the source available). OTOH, there is no way we can determine on the
spot whether someone is truly needy or not. Yes, the person probably
ought to sell it, but you and I have no way of knowing that for sure
(maybe someone gave it to him or maybe he feels that his appearance
without it will be so totally unacceptable that he will not be seen in
public or maybe it was borrowed). That's why in an earlier post I
stressed the importance of finding people to whom you can give Tzedakah
who will make sure that it is going to truly poor people. People who
take the time to check out who is really in need and who is not. You and
I cannot tell without knowing more whether or not a person is truly
worthy. For that matter, we cannot always tell whether a given Gabbai
Tzedaka (person who distributes charity) is truly honest either, but we
do the best we can....

IMHO fulfilling the mitzva of Tzedakah properly by giving your money to
people who truly need it needs as much siyata d'shmaya (help from
Heaven) as anything else.

Carl M. Sherer
mailto:<carl@...> or mailto:sherer@actcom.co.il

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son Baruch Yosef ben
Adina Batya.  Thank you very much.


From: Carl M. Sherer <carl@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 15:44:23 +0200
Subject: Schnorring 2 (was Tzedakah, Work Ethic and Weddings)

Elie Rosenfeld writes:
> 1) On what basis is it permissible for a young healthy individual, who
> is B'H neither physically nor mentally disabled, and whose father is
> gainfully employed, to "shnorr" for a living instead of working?  Are we
> failing in our obligation to teach our children work skills, as required
> by Chazal?  Or is the unemployment situation in Israel to blame?

First of all, I think you have to rethink what gainfully employed
means. In Israel, one can be drawing a salary and yet be desparately
impoverished. People who publish sforim are not wealthy here (to say the
least), and as expensive as the sforim might be to purchase, many (if
not most) people who publish them are barely covering costs. So the fact
that someone with many children bli ayin hara is gainfully employed,
does not necessarily preclude the possibility that his son would need to

Second, to the extent that this gentleman continues to schnorr today, it
is because he is also supporting several other families.  No, I haven't
seen them. But I have no reason to doubt his word that it is so. When
you start out with someone in a relationship based on honesty (what
attracted me to give him money in the first place was the fact that he
admitted he was schnorring for his own wedding), you don't stop trusting
him without some (a lot of) evidence that he no longer deserves it.

Third, there are people who make a living being schnorrers. You and I
may not like doing it, but it is a legitimate occupation. In more polite
society, they might be referred to as "fundraisers." How many of our
local Yeshivos employ a fundraiser who is paid based upon how much money
they raise? Isn't that the same thing?

Fourth, yes I believe that one should teach one's children work
skills. It's a Gemara at the end of Kiddushin. The kid didn't learn them
for whatever reason (and now I am not referring to this specific
gentleman). Or the father did not fulfill his obligation. Now what? Does
that mean I no longer have an obligation to help support him?

> 2) There are nearly unlimited opportunities for tzedakah, and
> conversely, almost all of us have quite limited funds from which to
> give.  It is thus critical that the worthiness of each given cause be
> taken into account.  To some extent, this will be subjective to each of
> us, but I also feel that to a significant extent, it is fairly
> objective.  For example, how does giving money to "make a wedding" stack
> up against support for widows, orphans, or the disabled, against helping
> those who literally do not have enough to eat, a place to live, or who
> have R'L staggering medical expenses?  Especially since the lack of a
> formal wedding reception in no way prevents a couple from fulfilling the
> mitzvah of getting married!  

In Israel "to make a wedding" does not mean making a ceremony.  Before I
made aliya, I made several weddings through Yad Eliezer.  They cost $500
apiece. That's not what this young man was looking for, because if it
was, he would have raised $500 relatively quickly.

One of the unfortunate (IMHO) facts of life in Israel today is that
there is very little rental housing, and what exists is quite
expensive. This means that most young couples who are getting married
must think immediately of buying a place. The mentality is that if I buy
something small now, I can always trade up later, so you take every
penny you have and put it into an apartment that you hope to trade up
from eventually. In circles where parents can afford to do so, they help
their children out, often paying the entire cost of the apartment and
more. Where they cannot, the child looks to borrow money from wherever
s/he can, or, yes, goes schnorring. (Maybe from Gmachs rather than from
individuals, but at the end of the day, it's still schnorring). Add to
that the cost of basic appliances that no household would do without
today such as a refrigerator, a stove and a washing machine (all of
which, when imported, are taxed in excess of 100% here, making the local
products outrageously expensive also), and "making a wedding" means a
lot more than renting a hall and serving Yerushalmi Kugel and drinks
(which is often all that people do in some circles).

You would be amazed how many people in Israel live in overcrowded
conditions, with little food. Over the summer, I was asked for money for
the widow and orphans of a young talmid chacham who had just passed
away. I was told that their apartment was so small that they had
children sleeping in the bathtub (literally) and that the wife was
debating with her friends whether she should wear a robe to the levaya
so that she would not have to tear her only dress. And this is not
atypical. Hashem Yishmor! (May Hashem protect us from such things).

As to medical expenses, surprisingly, I have become a bit of a cynic
about those, having been exposed to more of the medical establishment
than any of you want to know about. Yes, there are people who are truly
in need of medical help who cannot afford it.  But I take requests for
money for medical help a lot more skeptically than I used to. To help
explain why, I'd like to reproduce something I posted on tachlis a
couple of weeks ago in response to someone who asked why it seemed that
there are so many people in Israel begging for money for medical
expenses. It may give some of you pause as to how you should allocate
your Tzedakah money:

"I think one of the things that people have to realize is that the
stories one often hears about the Kupot [health funds] when someone is
seriously ill R"L frequently involve their refusal to pay for surgeries
and the like in chu"l [overseas]. I think it's important for people to
realize that there are often two sides to the story.

"Whatever else you can say about the Kupot, their resources are
limited. Unlike American HMO's which are large public companies, the
Kupot are not answering to shareholders as to why they are not
profitable, and they make no real effort to be profitable. They do try
to balance their budgets. Yes, they have bloated bureaucracies;
particularly the one bailed out by the last government. But on the whole
their decisions - to me at least - seem a lot less arbitrary than the
decisions we hear about in the States, and the wait times for procedures
like MRI's seem shorter than the ones we hear about in Canada and in

"Frequently, families feel that if they do not take a loved one to chu"l
for treatment, they are getting second rate care. As a result, a lot of
pressure is placed on the Kupot to approve people traveling to
chu"l. THOSE tend to be the cases you hear about. But going to chu"l is
a LOT more expensive (not to mention the upheaval it imposes on the
family). A bit over two years ago, we also thought about going to
chu"l. What we discovered then is that the Kupot use two criteria in
determining whether or not they will pay for a surgery (and that's
usually what's under discussion although not always) in chu"l:

"1. Is the surgery done here [i.e. in Israel] at all? If it's not, then
the Kupot will generally foot the entire bill.

"2. Can you demonstrate that even if the surgery is done here, they have
more experience with it in chu"l and have better outcomes in chu"l
because of that experience? If you can, you will often be able to get
the cost of having the surgery done privately here, and apply that to
having it done in chu"l. For example, when we were looking at this with
Baruch Yosef two years ago, we estimated that the cost of doing surgery
here privately was $30K and the cost of doing it in New York (where we
probably would have gone) was $50K. In a best case scenario, we would
have financed $20K out of our own pockets.

"So why didn't we do it, you ask. Because when we spoke to the top
pediatric surgeon in the States, he told us to stay here.  He said that
our surgeon here (who was his student) is as good as anyone we could
find in the States, and that there was no additional equipment in the
States that would be used for BY's surgery that was not available
here. So we stayed. And we have never regretted it. Given our situation,
could you blame the Kupa if they had said they would not pay the $20K
difference, that the money could better be spent on someone who needed a
surgery that wasn't done here? I couldn't.

"The other instance where the Kupa may not pay for surgery in chu"l is
where they feel the situation is really hopeless. And they don't decide
that on their own - they consult with outside doctors who are not
employees of the Kupa before making that decision.  Yes, I know,
miracles do happen, but when the Kupa has to decide between spending
$100K to send someone to chu"l for a surgery that in a best case
scenario (at least to human eyes) will extend someone's life for six
months, versus spending $100K towards an intraoperative MRI (a machine
that puts an MRI on a TV monitor during surgery so that a surgeon can
more accurately use his instruments) that can allow dozens of lives to
be saved, they may well buy the machine.

"One other thing I should add - when people insist on going to chu"l for
treatment it is often so that they can feel that they did all that they
could. Someone suggested to me this past summer, when Baruch Yosef was
not doing so well R"L, that we should go to consult with doctors in the
States so that we could feel we had done all we could. We decided to do
it by phone instead. Even the one institution in the States that had
suggested in the past that a trip would be a worthwhile endeavor (Duke)
didn't even suggest it in the summer and talked to us on the phone.

"So when people tell you that the Kupa was unfair to them because they
refused to pay for a procedure, take it with a grain of salt."

In sum, I think the answer to Elie's question really depends on where
you are and the kind of community in which you live.  Requests that
might be considered outlandish in the US are quite reasonable here. And
at the end of the day, I think that proper allocation of Tzedakah
requires at least as much siyata deshmaya (help from Heaven) as anything
else we do in our lives.

> Thanks for bearing with me through a longish message, but I think these
> issues are important ones for the m.j community to explore.

I agree with you (especially about the longish message part - mine was
much longer than yours:-). But I suspect we are going to have a hard
time coming up with a set of hard and fast rules.

[I try and read all messages carefully, and one of my concerns is the
length of messages. In cases where I think that the topic and the
content is such that is presents value for the length to the mj
community, I will send it on. Clearly, since you are seeing this, this
is a case that I think it is worth it, as are the discussions on Kavanah
that have been going on. This is one area where I use my Editorial
role, and I am open to people letting me know if they think I am letting
something continue past where it is continuing to add valuable
information. Mod]

Carl M. Sherer

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima
for my son Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya. 
Thank you very much.


End of Volume 28 Issue 37