Thursday, March 30, 2017

Good Guy or Bad Guy?

Sometimes I lock the front door when I’m home alone and decide to take a shower. Sometimes I don’t. That particular evening I hadn’t and as I walked out of the shower I heard someone knocking loudly on my front door. Remembering my carelessness I wrapped myself in a towel, pulled a full-length robe over it, and made my way to the entrance of my home.

“Who’s there?” I called through the wooden, windowless door. Perhaps it was my grandson, a friend walking by, or maybe a charity collector.

“Rav Moshe (not the real name),” was the reply.

I wasn’t really sure who Rav Moshe was although a fleeting thought about a particular charity collector floated through my mind. It didn’t matter if I knew him. Dressed or not, I wasn’t interested in opening our front door to any man I didn’t know very well if I was home alone. My response was made without a bit of hesitation.

“I’m sorry I can’t open the door now.”

Before I had even reentered my room he knocked on the door again. Actually it sounded more like banging to me. And it made me feel threatened. Another bang and I began to panic. Was he going to lose patience and barge into the house? I weighed my options.

Should I call my husband home? Lock myself in the bathroom? Quickly dress and run out another door to the neighbors? At least my towel and robe completely covered me. If I began dressing and he burst in he might discover me partly exposed. Feeling vulnerable I was unable to make an intelligent decision.

And then I heard the door open! I also heard a voice that sounded like my husband’s. I screamed his name four times before he answered. What a relief it was to see his face.

The man at the door was the charity collector and he had been a little too enthusiastic for our taste. My husband sent him on his way and I tried my best to calm down. I’d been traumatized, though, and didn’t feel well the following day.

Of course, there’s a question begging to be asked here. Why didn’t I just simply lock the door when I told Rav Moshe I couldn’t open it? The answer is pathetic and it’s the reason for this article. I was uncomfortable to do so. I didn’t want to be rude. He’d hear me and it would hurt his feelings.

As ridiculous as that sounds I wasn’t that far off mark. There are numerous sources in the Torah, Talmud, and other holy books that instruct us to make great effort not to embarrass anyone. Beginning in Genesis (chapter 3, verse 6) the Tree of Knowledge is never identified by its type of fruit. Our Sages teach this was so neither the tree nor the fruit would be embarrassed. If the Almighty was so concerned about the honor of a tree so should we be concerned about our fellowman. This theme continues throughout the Torah. In Deuteronomy, (chapter 20, verses 5-8) before going to battle, the officers send home all the soldiers who have built a new house and not lived in it, planted a vineyard and not redeemed it, become engaged and not yet had the wedding. They continue and instruct those who are afraid to also go home. Why would they be afraid? Because they’d sinned. The first three groups were a smoke screen for the fourth. Seeing the soldiers leave no one would know what their reasons were and the sinners would not be shamed.  

There’s another verse in the Torah, however. In Exodus (chapter 22, verse 1) we learn that if a thief breaks into someone’s home and is killed no one is found guilty for his death. It’s obvious that the thief would have been ready to murder if necessary and self-defense is a basic right. In the Talmud, Sanhedrin 72a, this verse is further expounded and we’re taught the famous dictum, if someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.

Now, with the passage of time, the light of day, and being fully dressed, I realize that I let my imagination run wild that particular evening. Most likely Rav Moshe was not the least bit dangerous and yet I don’t know that for sure. Sadly, there are perpetrators of evil in the world. Some wear the bad guy’s black hat and at first glance we know by their behavior to stay away from them. Others, though, guise themselves as the good guys and fool us while they pose as social workers, doctors, teachers, and even rabbis.

There’s a story of a man in a theatre having chest pains and, not wanting to bother anyone sitting near him, ignored the symptoms of a heart attack. Feeling self-conscious he died in his seat. That surely disrupted the audience far more than his exit would have.

Was my situation all that different? HaShem has blessed us with common sense and we need to use it. That evening my gut was telling me I was in danger and, even if I wasn’t, I should have listened to it. If Rav Moshe was a good guy my locking the door surely would have made him uncomfortable but given the world we live in he should have understood. If he was a bad guy then I would have been following the dictates of the Talmud. Life is a precious gift and we need to protect it.
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Batya Medad said...

This post has been included in Shiloh Musings: HH 18 Blog Posts from All Over. Please check it out and let your readers know, thanks.

Ester said...

Thank you, Batya