By Falsely Accused
‘Rav Shimon ben Gamliel said, “I grew up all of my days among the sages, and I have found nothing better for oneself than silence.”
As the falsly accused arranger of the Flatbush shaimos company mentioned in at least one news story about “Abandoning Shaimos Trucks,” I strongly contemplated silence.
When presented the opportunity to release my story to a publication interested in the truth and making a true kiddush Hashem, I felt that I had to tell my story.
This is a terrible scandal and Hashem’s Name has been desecrated. Any operator who did abandon their shaimos has no conscience and fear of G-d.
There were dozens of shaimos trucks collecting shaimos and clothing in the frum neighborhoods in the weeks before Pesach and the vast majority were handled properly under great pressure.
All types of scandals continue to erupt around Jewish communities worldwide. One begins to ask himself: What has gone wrong and are we truly headed towards the arrival of Moshiach? Jewish news media on the internet has taken a turn for the worse. It is a terrible scandal. As an avid reader of these sites until recently, I truly believed these sites were under the guidance of rabbonim and run by true Torah Jews and, when confronted with the truth, would choose to disseminate it.
Let me tell you my story.
As soon as I read an article regarding an ”Abandon Shaimos Truck” in Boro Park, I was weary as to its truth, as the truck pictured are leased trucks and on a monthly rental. Lots of shaimos is collected and transporting it to burial grounds usually in upstate and in big tractor trailers can take a couple weeks after Pesach, which is the reason most operators opted for the monthly rental. I myself had a 24 foot trailer full of shaimos and was set to go for burial in the early morning hours of the night of bedikas chometz when the driver couldn’t make it. I was left carrying the additional cost of holding the trailer over the first days of Yom Tov and burying the shaimos on Chol Hamoed. I also had an additional truck scheduled to be buried on April 19th.
After hearing that there were scattered shaimos on train tracks, I called Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s office and offered to bury any shaimos that turned out to be ”abandoned” free of charge. An assistant called me back and thanked me for my offer, but because there was an ongoing police investigation, they would get back to me to make the arrangements.
The following day, while driving on the way to bury the last remaining shaimos in Liberty, NY, at the Beth Genizah Cemetery (which was reported about here on Matzav.com) under the rabbinical supervision of the CRC (Hisachdus Harabbonim) and the OU, my cell phone began receiving untold numbers of calls in a matter of minutes.
I quickly learned that another article was posted on a popular “frum” internet news website. Its local affiliate reported that a “Third Abandoned Shaimos Truck” was found, this one in Flatbush. The report included the printing of my phone number which had been posted on the truck throughout the entire time it was parked in front of my house. The contents of the article described the truck as ”abandoned” with clothing in it and strongly implied that this third truck was affiliated with the two prior trucks reported earlier and found to have actual shaimos.
The story further implied that no clothing went to needy people and invited anyone who dropped off clothing at our locations to come to the open truck to take back their “moldy and smelly clothing.”
The only problem is that the story is a complete fabrication and worse. In fact, the internet site that published it knew so, because they had been told the day before that this particular truck was not abandoned. They also admitted that while they published my phone number, they never bothered to call me directly to ask about what was going on.
While most of the clothing collected was previously donated, these remaining items had been collected during the last few days up to Pesach and were not at all “moldy and smelly.” In fact, the Bnai Raphael Chesed Organization of Flatbush was glad to take the clothing.
While I could not answer most of the calls we received after the internet article release due to the high volume, the vast majority were highly offensive calls, certainly not becoming of a “frum” audience.
The reason I tell you all this is for two reasons.
The first is that who dropped off shaimos or clothing at any of our locations – Nostrand Avenue and Avenue M, Coney Island Ave. and Avenue L, 13th Avenue and 49th Street, Coney Island Ave. and Avenue M, or previously Avenue M and East 10th – and even the last couple of latecomers who left their shaimos hanging on the truck at Avenue M and East 22nd, can feel secure that all the clothing and shaimos was taken care of properly and handled at all times according to halacha.
Secondly, while I am nobody to give mussar to anyone and I can’t say I personally have grasped this concept, I feel that I can help someone in the same shoes as me in the future.
Rav Frand in Parashas Metzora quotes famous Medrash that tells of a peddler who came into a city and inquired: “Who wants longevity?” Rav Yannai inquired of the peddler what he was selling. The peddler directed Rav Yannai to the pasuk in Tehillim: “Who is the man who desires life…? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” Rav Yannai commented that he never understood the interpretation of this pasuk until this peddler taught him about it.
How is it that Rav Yannai never understood the interpretation of a straightforward pair of pasukim in Tehillim until a peddler explained it to him?
The Shemen HaTov explains that Rav Yannai thought that cleanliness of speech required being somewhat anti-social. Rav Yannai believed that mixing with society, having friends and engaging in conversation was a sure formula for not being able to live up to the standards of “Who is the man who desires life.”
Rav Yannai was shocked that the peddler was “selling” this verse. Peddlers are known for their ‘gift of gab’. They travel from city to city and from house to house and have plenty to tell and plenty to share and plenty to say. In classic Hebrew literature, the peddler was always portrayed as a gossip.
Rav Yannai’s revelation was not so much the interpretation of the pasuk but the teacher of the lesson: “If the peddler can tell me that a person such as he can be careful about Lashon HaRa, then my approach must change. I now realize that a person can intermix with society, talk, be sociable and still be careful not to speak Lashon HaRa.
While these internet sites are not going away and they may be more appropriate compared to secular media outlets, one can learn from this story that one can “intermix with society,” in our case read frum news online and still be careful to have the benefit of the doubt and not to speak lashon hara when the opportunity to do so arises.