Many years ago, in the early 90’s, I was volunteering in the Former Soviet Union and visited several camps. We noticed that Schmerling chocolates generously donated by the Schmerling family from Switzerland were disappearing far too quickly and we decided to investigate. It didn’t take long, and we soon discovered that some of the camp drivers and other workers from the camp were taking boxes of chocolates and then selling them in the Riinak (bazaars).
When confronted and questioned why are they stealing, their answers were always the same. “But I work here and I’m allowed to take it. Everyone here takes!”
For them it wasn’t considered stealing, it was just a way of life. A person who worked in a dairy store would barter milk and cheese for meat. A person working in a meat store would barter for fish. Someone else for clothing. And in this manner everyone survived.
It wasn’t right then for Russia and it certainly isn’t right now in America. The concept that “everyone cheats” is simply not true. The idea that we all cheat and just need to be careful not to be caught is false and stupid.
Many people commented on the struggles of making ends meet in today’s reality. Costs of tuition, kosher food, modest clothing, housing, lifestyles, are much more than many of us hard working people earn.
Other comments blamed the schools for not paying enough to their teachers while others lamented and asked how can teachers afford to buy homes and why are they entitled to parsonage, etc.
The intent of this article is not to accuse nor justify anyone. Nor is it a wake up call. The real news already accomplished that.
We live in a time of transparency. The notion of, “An eye sees, the ear hears and all your actions are recorded” never rang truer. Our social media imprints are all over. As more and more government agencies share data and super computers enable complicated algorithms, one has to be extremely foolish and perhaps even suicidal to think it will only happen to the other guy or that the government is only going after the big boys.
I am not an accountant, and I know that not everyone qualifies for different benefits, but the law does provide many legal ways to account for one’s wages, Some may get a 1099 instead of a W-2, some can be paid as consultants, others qualify for parsonage.
There are also many government and community programs that can help with food and other hardships. This is perhaps an area our community councils should do more of, certainly in their outreach efforts as many young couples and foreigners don’t know where to ask or are too embarrassed etc.
And for those who complain that it is simply impossible to live here in New York, then it is preferable they move to a place where it is more affordable than hope they won’t be caught stealing.
I am including a financial chart that was submitted by a community member years ago to help families understand their income and expenses. Many times, perhaps too often, it boils down to a question of priorities. Do we support the 30+ food establishments and fancy eateries, pay our tuition’s or go on nice vacations.
There are several good applications today where one can consolidate and record all their expenses combining their check books, credit cards, petty cash, mortgages, etc.
Certainly, if we believe that our very existence and Parnasa comes from Hashem, we can all live our lives according to the Torah, Shulchan Aruch and by adhering to the laws of the land.
May we all be worthy of Hashem’s blessing for Parnasa in abundance and always be from those who give and do not need to receive.
Have a healthy summer.