Ethical dilemma

Marian Stefaniu (mstefan@ionsys.com)
Sun, 9 Mar 1997 14:44:15 -0500

I would like to ask the help and commentaries of the members of this list
on an ethical dilemma: serving the needs of the few, versus the needs of
the many. I am sure this case is nothing new, so I would appreciate any
references to traditional sources. Here is the case:

A Jewish man decided to donate some time as a volunteer for the community.
There are two services he could volunteer for:
1. A distress telephone line.
2. A training course let's say on computers.

In the first case he would serve a very limited number of people. Many of
them are repeat callers suffering from mild mental problems, they feel
lonely, and in need of someone to listen, to talk to them and to accept
them as they are.

In the second case he would serve many more people, some of whom may need
the additional training to improve their job prospects.

The dilemma is this. Which is the more worthy case ? Here are some answers
I heard so far:
Case 1 because of the verse *Rescue the needy and the destitute * (Psalm
82). Case 2 because benefits more people, who in turn could better serve
the community.
Both cases are equal because there is only one mitzvah, i.e. the donation
of time.

Shavua tov
Marian