According to our Sages: “You can recognize a person’s real character by how a person acts b’koso (when his own money is concerned), koso (his glass, his … of alcohol) and ka’aso (his anger, how the person behaves when he is angry).”
This past Shabbat I had an interesting dilemma. There was a blizzard in NYC. I had eagerly been watching the weather. I had a big Shabbat dinner for 100 people scheduled, a kiddush Saturday morning in honor or Caila’s birthday and Jewish disability awareness month. Our family was also flying early Sunday to Tampa to connect with a cruise – a birthday present from my parents visiting from South Africa.
Thursday morning talk of the blizzard increased but the impact on Manhattan was not expected to be great – snow mixed with rain. By Friday morning Mayor Bloomberg had issued a blizzard warning with white out conditions starting Friday 8pm. Along with potentially suspending subways the Mayor’s message was stay home, stay off the streets. I then received a call from the wait staff company that their staff were canceling their service for the Friday dinner.
As the founder and organizer of the JICNY Shabbat dinner I had to make a difficult decision and we cancelled the dinner. We informed all paid participants and shared the fact that although we were not responsible for this “Act of G-d” we had already paid the caterer and could not get a refund. JICNY is a financially challenged not-for-profit and we were now in a precarious situation as we had paid the caterer. We asked people to consider not opting for a refund of the $37 they had paid for the dinner and providing part of the $37 as a donation to help defray costs. This situation poses an interesting question. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE WHEN THERE IS AN ACT OF G-D?
Thankfully most participants were not only understanding but appreciative of the fact that as an unpaid volunteer I now had the additional headache of canceling the event. We also had respectful requests from people for credits for future events. Of course there were those who showed how they deal when money was at stake. For these people there was only one perspective – theirs. For them there was only one solution, a refund. What was interesting without exception was that all of those who wanted refunds demanded their money, used harsh language and what can I say, were rude.
We all live stressful lives. The common theme running through the three items of wisdom from our heritage (alcohol, money and anger) is ego-centricity – caring about onself without considering the impact for other people. It is only when we can elevate our perspective to consider others (even in stressful situations) that we become the type of person with the character traits that Judaism demands of us.
Originally published: February 12, 2013
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