Part One: The Eyes of a Parallel Universe

Please join us for a three part series entitled “Money and Morality” by Ariella Hoffman-Peterson. Ariella is a participant in our Repair the World Onward Israel Service Learning Initiative in Be’er Sheva. This is Part One in the series. 

Ariella Photo

I took a class this past quarter at school called Sinai Scholars, in which we were required to write an essay on the topic “Money and Morality.” While I did not see an obvious connection between this topic and my volunteer experience here, and rather saw it as an annoyance that I had to manage to get this assignment done in the middle of our program, my procrastination actually paid off, as it gave me a sounding board to really synthesize some important experiences I have had on Yahel. I am going to adapt some of that into a blog post series:

A girl, maybe a year or two older than I, walks up to me on the streets of Jerusalem on Shabbat. Her friend trails behind her, and my friends trail behind me. Nothing about her strikes me, until all of the sudden she is in front of me, asking if I know Hebrew. Prideful as I answer yes, she quickly asks in Hebrew, “do you have a few Shekels so we can get something to eat?” Our eyes are locked, with my surprise and her apprehension, as I almost instinctually say I don’t have any change. In a split second remember exactly what is in my hand and what is in my purse. I hand my Aroma ice coffee to a friend, and begin rummaging in my bag. As my gaze shifts downwards to my awkward search for change, I stop at her feet to see that she is not wearing shoes. I look back up with coins in my hand to look a parallel universe in the eye. As we walk away and turn the corner, I feel relieved that my conscience switched on. Someone behind me brings up the valid issue of trusting the people you give money to on the street. My heart answers with

“I’m going to try to do my part and give some Tzedakah on Shabbat.”

If we are going to talk about money and morality, a Jewish American tourist with a four dollar ice coffee in her hands cannot deny someone a few more Shekels in that moment. However, I recognize there is more to this anecdote, especially in the context of Israel and Judaism – there are issues here of how an individual can balance both money and morality, the differences between Tzedakah and Tzedek (charity vs. justice), and governmental vs. private sector involvement in solving broader issues of injustice.

Please stay tuned for Part Two!


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