A Tale of Two Boys


chareidi-boys-bochurimBy S. Friedman, Matzav.com

I’d like to share with you two stories about two young boys, and the stark contrast those stories portray. Both stories occur with what appeared to be nine year olds; an age when one has an understanding of their actions, yet at the same time possesses the naiveté of youth.

The first, quite an unremarkable episode, took place in a local frum business.  A boy was in the checkout line in a hardware store waiting to pay for the items he was sent to purchase.  When it came to his turn, he asked the clerk, without the slightest hint of irony, “Will you take off the tax since I’m paying in cash?”  That’s the story.

The absurdity of going into a retail store and asking for a cash discount, on a relatively insignificant purchase to boot, is something that borders on comical, that only a child’s spin on an adult theme can produce.

The second story is quite the contrary.  I heard this story from Rabbi Krohn on an old tape I dug recently, and it took place in Yerushalayim.  A city bus, already at full capacity, pulled up to a stop where there were an inordinate amount of people waiting to the amount of seats that are vacant.  The driver, on a tight schedule as always, opened both the front and back doors of the bus to allow for the overflow crowd to enter in order to expedite the boarding process.  The people were familiar with this, and gladly obliged when the driver asked that the bus cards be passed up to him from the rear so that he can punch them accordingly.

After he was done and everyone more or less settled down (or up, as it were, for the straphangers), a young boy approached the driver with his card to be punched.  “I already punched it,” the driver informed the boy, matter-of-factly.  The boy persisted that the driver had indeed missed him in all the hullabaloo, and that if the driver didn’t punch his card, it would be genaiva, stealing.  The driver, now in the voice of the former soldier (probably a tank driver), informed the boy that he punched it, and he should go back to his place.

A few minutes passed, and the driver noticed this boy standing in the aisle, crying bitterly.  He pulled over the bus and asked the boy what was wrong.  “Zeh genaiva,” it’s stealing, he said as he was crying.

“Yofeh” beautiful, said the driver, as he patted the boy on head affectionately, and punched his card.

The stories show on one hand how cynicism and rule bending has run amok, and on the other, the unmitigated passion to do what is right.  What both stories have in common is that for a child to have these traits, the biggest influence he can have is his parents.

Perhaps there are friends or circumstances that could have educated and swayed the boy in the hardware store, but ultimately it is a child’s parents who have the greatest effect on how they treat money.  If they skirt around the ethical edge, and try to manipulate things in their financial favor, then one can only assume their child will do the same.  Subtract the common sense an adult possesses, and you have the recipe for a (even bigger) Chillul Hash-m.

Conversely, when a boy is brought up to be averse to having “non-kosher” funds, and to act in a way above all questioning, it prompts an observer to claim, what wonderful parents this boy has. Such high ethical standards.

As frum Yidden, what others comment about us, and by extension about our children, is something we don’t take lightly.  Fair or not, we are judged by the nations of the world as Hash-m’s people, and we have to bear the weight of that duty.  Perhaps more poignant though, aside from how the public would react to our children, don’t we want to be proud of them for our own sake?  Don’t we want to know, my child is well versed in middas ha’emes, and cares deeply about creating a nachas ruach for Hashem?

While my article here only touches on one point, and chinuch habbanim is an enormous multi-faceted challenge that lasts as long as we live and requires hefty doses of Hash-m’s help, at least in this regard let’s try to be thoughtful that our actions in monetary matters help shape our children’s attitudes.  Of the two boys depicted above, which would you want your child to be like?

{S. Friedman-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. I notied that this writer often talks issues about money. He’s right- the integrity and level of honesty that people have in other aspects of their life suddenly dissapear when it comes to people’s pockets. Especially with governemnt stuff.
    We have hotlines to ask ashailos about shmiras haloshon, but people (many times) don’t ask what’s the right thing to do when it comes to money- the just rationalize.

  2. Touching second story!
    In the first one, the kid most probably thought there is legally two ways of paying, with or without taxes. It’s the parents fault, but the kid really did not see any legal shortcoming.

  3. The “no tax” thing is purely a NY/NJ thing. you would never hear or ask of such a thing where i live
    People you have trained your children this way so what do you expect???

  4. It’s a terrible things, and kids don’t have a “filter” that can get people in trouble. What’s worse, is that they think cheating is “shticky”.
    To out-of towner:
    If it’s going on in NY/NJ it will effect kids out of town as well. Be it from camp, yeshiva, etc…
    And out of town do people pay taxes on “cash businesses” (like babysitting)? It’s not just a cash/sales tax thing.

  5. The article is well done and an amazing lesson at how kids pick up every subtle message, implied or otherwise! I teach children the ages of the article. I can get stories all the time from children where I find myself trying to help the kid navigate through the shinanigans of their parents’ lives and still find admiration and respect for them at the same time; ie. Talking during davening ,using cell phones during davening, listening to Dial-A-Daf while “busy” on the Blacberry etc.
    It’s a real lesson of Ayin Roeh!

    GREAT ARTICLE & RESPONSES! (all I saw was till # 8)

  6. Probably hyphenated because if you print out article there can be “issues.” Or the author just has that habit back from when we used to put things on paper 🙂

  7. Its the sad reality we live in and unfortunately while the first story is just shrugged off as its so believably common (at least around here), that the second story was even more beautiful as its so out of the norm that we (I?) live.

  8. Nice piece. Hyphenating the word Hashem either indicates that the writer is an ignorant BT (forgivable), or that he is an ignorant FFB (unforgivable).

  9. YOU SEE YOU ARE ALOUD TO STEAL FROM THE GOVERNMENT WHETHER ON TAX OR YOUR TAXES. ir im paying and you are chargeing me tax answer no sir just collecting it for the government

  10. #15…please take care of your spelling…
    allowed..not aloud…
    charging…not chargeing-and then, please learn how to co-ordinate your sentences..
    Please everyone out there, there is spell check, and if you can’t write properly, please don’t show your ignorance here.
    Thank you….and simchas Yom Tov.

  11. In isreal, just about every store (even retail stores) give discounts. You just need to ask.
    In fact it’s been quoted, that many heads of stores and the like raise their price ever so slightly on account of the fact that people are going to try to argue them down.
    what am I missing here?
    I want my child to understand that stealing is wrong, and if the driver didn’t punch the ticket you must have it punched, HOWEVER,
    if the bus driver takes 55 shekels for a 52 shekel card, I want my child to be confident in himself that he can discuss with the driver or whomever he is purchasing an item from, that there is a set price for an item, and I want to purchase it from you, but I would like a bit of a discount.
    still don’t see what’s wrong with it.
    A can of coke costs the owner 35 cent. he sells it for $1 plus tax. he made 65 cents, paid 15 cents tax to the government.
    let him make 50 cents and still pay the 15 cents to the government.
    what am I missing here?

  12. To #17
    When someone just asks for a discount, that’s different. The implication of a CASH discount for tax is that it can be an unrecorded/unreported transaction and the tax will never be reported (or the income for that matter).
    The store owner will only have the expense of purchasing product, but not income of selling it- he can just pocket cash.