When Free Isn’t Enough

This is basically a follow-up to my now classic “When Meshulchim Attack” post.

I answered the door after Shabbos to find two men in shabby black coats, reeking of cigarettes. First thing I ask is if they were together, so I can estimate how much this will cost me. They say no, and the one in front pushes a laminated letter on me saying how he’s come all the way from Stamford Hill and his daughter is getting married. I read the letter to be polite, although it doesn’t affect how much I’ll give. When it comes to door-to-door tzedokah everyones got a sad story or a worthy cause and I only have so much money. The letter, true to his word, says, in badly scrawled Engrish that he’s from Stamford Hill and his daughter is getting married and he has no money. The one in back has been quiet the whole time, but when I asked if they were together the one from Stamford Hill had said that he was collecting for a Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel. He then added that he though, was from Stamford Hill.

I ask them to wait for a minute, and go to the kitchen to inform my mother we had meshulchim. She gets her purse, only to find she’s got no available cash or change, so I go to check my wallet. I come back to the door and give them each what I feel is a reasonable amount, equivalent to around a couple of dollars each. Bear in mind, I’ve been out of work for a while, so I’m not exactly rolling in it. The quiet one in back accepts it, but the one from Stamford Hill is upset. “This is all you have? But I’ve come all the way from Stamford Hill!”

He then asks why I can’t write him a cheque, and also mentions he saw my mother digging in her purse, what about that money? After all, he says, he’s come all the way from Stamford Hill. I tersely tell him I’m out of work and that’s all the money I have. (Which is true).

At that point you want to take the money back, but you can’t. Whats the level of chutzpah required to complain about how much free money you’re getting? And the fact he reeked of cigarettes just topped it off for me. I hate when I smell smoke on meshulchim because I know how much a pack costs, and I hate to think that my money might just be financing your smoking rather than your daughters wedding. I would love to see the rabbanim put some rule in place that you can’t ask for money until you stop spending money on things that aren’t essential to living. Don’t complain about money when you’ve got a habit to finance. Even if you’ve come all the way from Stamford Hill.

17 Responses to “When Free Isn’t Enough”

  1. You should give them nothing, and tell them why. Invite them in, give them some bottled water (because presumably they are too holy to eat in your house), and explain to them that by giving them even a penny would, in some small way, validate their lifestyle.

  2. If you don’t want to give them anything, don’t. But don’t complain about what they do with the money after you give it to them. Once you give them the money it is now no longer yours to tell them how to spend it. If you feel that there cause is unworthy, you really don’t have to give them anything. But once you give it to them, you get the mitzvah of tzeddaka no matter how they choose to spend it afterward. Don’t demean your own mitzvah by demanding that you have a say in how they spend it after you give it. Once you do that, you are no better than a government bureaucrat giving out food stamps. As for them asking for more money, what do you expect, they are shnurrers? God put them on this world to test your resolve, no one said the test of the shnorrers was easy.

  3. aml: Too much effort.

    Child Ish: I was complaining more about the arrogance of asking for more, the smoking was my secondary rant. At the end of the day can you close the door on a meshulach? I’m not asking for a say in how they spend it. But if they’re collecting for a wedding, I’m giving it with the expectation that its going towards a wedding. If they’re buying cigarettes out of tzedoka money that seems very wrong to me.

  4. It seems wrong to me as well, but when you give him the money it is his to do as he pleases. You may want a say, but that say passes by after you choose to give the money. And yes, you can close the door on a person collecting charity. It is your money after all!

  5. I meant in a human sense, can you actually close the door on someone like that? I understand that I don’t have to give, but I feel bad not to give something.

  6. yes, you can close the door. we do it all the time. tough love. if enough people did, they may consider working.

  7. I might have given the one collecting for his penniless daughter a contraceptive of some kind. You can also reverse it and when you open the door scream in a loud voice “Thank G-D your here! Our family hasn’t eaten in a week!”. The stand there with your hand out while the rest of the family gets in on the act thanking them for cash. Top it off by saying, “Thank G-d for people from Stamford Hill!”.

  8. I give a little amount, that way I dont waste my money if they use it on other things, and I get the mitzvah of giving. If they ask for more Then its close the door time and mutter something like “I gave you already”.

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  10. I don’t have anyone coming to my door, thank G-d, but those on the streets, I simply don’t give. I have my shul and my friends to spend money on.
    If a young guy comes over to you next to an employment agency asking for money, would you give him? How about old ladies, sitting in front of a shul or store, talking on the cell and cursing? A “father” who’s kids are in the hospital, in the middle of the afternoon, in a hospital that has medicaid office inside it. Anyone who says he hasn’t eaten in x number of days. As for people collecting money for a wedding and looking like that, what are they/their kids gonna live on after the wedding?

  11. That’s quite a sticky wicket you got into, eh? Well, i have a story from last year when i was at my chavrusah’s house on a Motzei Shabbos. The doorbell rings, and who is at the door, but a meshulach from Israel. He proceeds to relate his tale of woe including uncounted children, marrige neceseties, etc…. My friend writes out a check and gives it to the guy, who takes one look at it and exclaims; “Is this the best you can do?” At this point i take a closer look at the guy, and notice that he’s wearing a shtreimel that must have cost a month’s salary of mine. My chavrusah and i look at each other in astonishment, but being the mentsch that he is, politely tells him it’s the best he can do, and off he goes. If that ain’t chutzpah, i don’t know what is!!

  12. Like, answer: so you should have stayed in STamford hill, it would save you the travel expenses…

  13. Re: cigarettes- they get them duty free on their way here, so it shouldn’t be so expensive…:)
    And I don’t like anyone who’s trying to either bully me into giving $ or embarrass me for not giving ‘enough’. If that’s their attitude, they don’t need any money from me. A person who really needs, takes what s/he can get and thanks you for it…

  14. “This is all you have? But I’ve come all the way from Stamford Hill!”

    Well, if you’re going to make your living as a shorrer, it probably helps to be a bit chutzpadik.

  15. Hmm….. There seems to be a Machlokes between the Tana Kama (Rebetzin Sally) and Rav David…According to the TK (insert thumb at this point) Chutzpa is not allowed, But Rav David is Matir it….

  16. When giving tzedukah if you give it begrudgingly it is as if you have not given at all.

    Although I understand your point completely, you do need to be selective in giving the 20% you’re obligated by halacha to donate. Especially given your employment situation now.

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