Re: Ethical dilemma

Sarah Watson (sarah_watson@Merck.Com)
Tue, 01 Apr 1997 10:18:00 -0500

<mstefan@ionsys.com> sets up the following scenerio, and asks readers to
discuss which is the worthier cause:
>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.

First, I'm not a rabbi, nor especially learned. Here is my "take" on
the dilemma, but if you want straight halacha you need to keep looking.

At first glance, I automatically chose (1). Although you stated that
there is but a single mitzvah (giving time) in both situations, I don't
agree. Helping on a distress phone line carries with it the possiblity
of saving a life (from suicide, or depression induced accidents). This
is a tremendouse mitzvah. Even if this man worked for fifty years and
only save a single life, it would be worth it.

However, the option (2) carries with it feeding the poor. It, too, is
not just the single mitvah of giving time. It is the highest form of
tzeddekah -- in training people you are not just giving them money
grudgingly (the lowest form of charity), you are training them to be
self sufficient.

In the end, I would suggest that this man honestly evaluate his
strengths and the needs of the community. If he has no counseling
training at all, he might do more harm than good on the phone. If the
community has a small college that offers free or reduced rate classes,
however, he may be more needed on the phone.

Sarah Watson