January 23rd, 2014

(relatively) recent

Social coercion to give to charity

Something I've been meaning to blog about for years is the practice of taking a צְדָקָה box around the shul during weekday Shacharis services; it annoys me immensely, and I ignore it when it passes me. Yes, the act of giving to charity is a great mitzvah, and everyone ought to do it, but no one ought to be forced to do it, or shamed into doing it because they're the only one in the shul who does not: those who wish to donate should go to the צְדָקָה box rather than the other way around. Besides, the practice dates from before the days of automated monthly donations to charity from one's pay packet, which I have been doing for years (and besides, is subject to Gift Aid, which צְדָקָה box donations ought not to be), and doesn't Maimonides say that giving anonymously is greater than giving when it is seen you are giving?

So I make a point of ignoring the צְדָקָה box when it comes past me, though today I couldn't ignore the Chareidi shnodderer who stood facing me when I was davening and wouldn't move on until I had acknowledged him, at which point he told me, in Hebrew, that he was collecting money to enable a poor couple to get married (I think). Perhaps shamefully (as far as sticking to my principle is concerned), rather than saying I couldn't understand Hebrew, I gave him a couple of pounds, at which he thanked me in Yiddish (I only caught the word געזינט)—now there's a couple of (spoken) languages you don't often hear together!

At this point we had reached the second Ashrei, and the chazzan indicated I should take over, which I did so before realising this meant doing one of the Psalms of the Day I was unfamiliar with (viz., Monday to Thursday); it was fortunate this didn't happen on Wednesday or I'd have been there all day.

Machzikei Hadath is quite a frum shul; it has the feel of a United Synagogue shul (minus the bad decorum) rather than a Chareidi one, but the people who turn up are all frum Modern Orthodox or Chareidi, and pretty much all dressed in suits. They've probably never had anyone taking services beforehand wearing cycling sandals, trousers tucked into long socks, high-visibility anklets and a jumper with the representation of a woman (Her Late Majesty) before....

[ ETA (forgot to conclude the story):] Then the shnodderer, having perhaps failed to realise I was the same person he'd previously spoken to having moved around the shul, approached me again with the same words whilst I was at the עַמוּד leading the service, and got driven away by the rest of the congregation. Good grief!

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