Thursday, June 19, 2008

True Integrity

The Shelah Hakadosh zt”l writes that a gabbai tzedakah should not assume that, since he is known to be trustworthy, he need not keep a clear record of who gave what and where it went. The medrash recounts that even Moshe Rabbeinu was under suspicion by some until he gave a full account of all the money he had received and what it was used for. How much more true of us is the need keep clear records and share them with the people, as the verse says: “You should be blameless in the eyes of the Jewish people.” Ensuring that people are happy with us is part of our obligation to love our fellow Jews, but the Pele Yoetz points out that scholars often neglect this point. They believe that if they are truly blameless, they don’t have to worry about others wrongly suspecting them of questionable behavior. But the truth is that one who doesn’t act to assuage the suspicions of others is putting a “stumbling block before the blind!”
When the Beis Halevi zt’l was the Rav in the town of Slutsk, the Russians instituted a new currency, and prohibited the use of the old. Knowing full well that the Rav was steeped in learning all the time, the shamash decided to take advantage of the situation. He would pocket the Rav’s salary paid in new currency, and exchange it for an equal amount of the old. Upon receipt of the money, the Rav thanked him as usual, and the unscrupulous shamash figured that the Rav suspected nothing. In actuality, the Brisker Rav did know—he merely kept silent to spare the man embarrassment. For weeks, not only did the Brisker Rav refrain from using the illegal currency, he was also careful to ensure that no one else would either. Until the shamash thought better of his actions and changed to the new bills, the Rav took the time to bury them every payday!

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