Monday, January 10, 2011

Being rude in the service of a mitzvah

A Guest Post by Philo

A couple of weeks ago, Ms. Philo and I were visiting my parents in Brooklyn for a few days. This was just a few days after the big snowstorm. We parked in my parents driveway, which they had kindly had dug out for us by neighborhood teens in anticipation of there being little street parking due to the massive snowbanks deposited by the plows.

Let me preface the next part of the story by explaining that across the street from my folks, there is a family who are known to be big ba’alei tzadaka, let’s call them the Shwartzes. They are well off, and support a wide variety of frum causes. So much so that on certain set evenings, there are meshulachim gathering there collecting money. This isn’t the simple “knock on the door and ask for a few dollars” affair. They make appointments to see Mr. Shwartz in the hope of getting a large check. On some of those evenings, the meshulachim become a nuisance, taking all the available parking and even blocking driveways.

My mother asked me to run out to the store one evening while we were visiting, so I pulled my car out of the driveway. As it turned out, it was one of the tzadaka nights at the Shwartzes. As I was pulling out, I saw a minivan with two Chassidim in it come down the block. I stopped pulling out in order to let them go by, but they slowed and waved me out of the driveway. I thought they were just being polite.

Twenty minutes later I came back and to my surprise, the minivan was now in my parents’ driveway. I honked and after a couple of minutes, the meshulachim came out of the Shwartzes house and moved the car out. To their credit, they looked sheepish. But before pulling out, one of them came over to where I was waiting and motioned for me to roll down the window. I assumed he wanted to apologize. But instead, with a big smile on his face, he said “Your driveway had a zchis! It was used for a mitzvah!”

In the greater scheme of things it’s not that big a deal, I guess. They probably figured I’d be gone long enough that they wouldn’t inconvenience me. And they did pull out not long after I came back. But if you’re supposedly doing a mitzvah, is it really appropriate to use someone’s driveway without permission? And this isn’t the first time I’ve experienced rude behavior on the part of meshulachim collecting tzedaka. What annoys me is the fact that instead of apologizing, he attempted to justify his rudeness by the fact that he was supposedly doing a mitzvah.

Anyone else experience this type of behavior?

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