A rather common occurrence took place in shul this morning. Again.
At the end of davening (sometimes it starts before we're even done), a man dressed mostly in black, clearly not from our yishuv, made the rounds asking for a donation. He held in his hand a pamphlet asking for fund for a family of orphans.
I have stopped giving money to people like this for a very simple reason: I have no way of verifying that they're telling me the truth. This man carried no identification indicating that he represented the given charity. He offered no evidence that the money people give him actually goes to the charity for which he claims to collect.
So I didn't give. Even a small amount.
This is not to say that I don't give tzedakah. I am making a concerted effort to be meticulous about my ma'aser. But I write checks to organizations that I recognize and support. I don't give to people collecting in shuls, the kotel, or on the street. When people come to my door, if they're collecting for themselves I will often give a token amount (I don't feel comfortable asking for documentation for a shekel or two.)
Often, when people come to my door asking for money for a kallah, a wedding or the like, a simple question enters my mind: do you work? How much? If you did, would you need to be asking me for this money?
It sometimes seems like large segments of our society have grown accustomed to "working" in the field of tzedakah. It's simply more lucrative to collect than it is to work. If each door you know on only gives you a shekel or two, you can easily make fifty to a hundred shekel in an hour. Cleaning houses earns forty. Knocking on doors is easier - at least physically, and less demanding.
This clearly isn't just a modern problem. Charlatans have been taking advantage of people's good will and generosity for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
Should we happen upon the donkey of our fellow man toppling under its heavy load, the Torah requires that, עזוב תעזוב עמו-- "you shall surely help with him." (Shemot 23:5) Commenting on the requirement to help "with" him, and not "instead" of him, Rav Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz, in his commentary Kli Yakar on the Torah writes,
Sometimes it seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.