Who is more deserving of our charity? The wife of a community leader who is left penniless with seven small children to feed, or the wife of a bus driver who finds herself in the same situation?
I ask because I'm thinking about privilege, and its occurred to me that the wife of the community leader has a few of them here. She can use her husband's name and reputation to collect money. She has access to her husband's students are likely to help her, both with contributions andcollection efforts. She, and the students, can boost those collection efforts by employing phrases such as "Now you can pay him back for all the good my husband did for you." And of course, she's likely to have a much larger network of sympathetic friends and supporters into which she can tap.
None of this is available to the bus driver's wife.
But does it follow from this that the wife of the community leader has done something wrong in making use of her advantages? No, definitely not.
Privilege is an unavoidable part of life. Having privilege doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't mean you haven’t had struggles of your own. And if you happen to have a particular privilege, its not, by definition, unethical to employ it.
The tricky part of how all of this affects us. We shouldn't penalize the wife of the community leader for her privilege, nor should we do anything to nullify it. But we should try to seek out the underprivileged, people like the bus driver's wife, who are no less needy, and no less deserving of our charity. It is not enough to respond only when a case comes to our attention. Its our duty to seek out people who don't have the tools and resources to find help on their own. And that's not easy.
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