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in whom do you trust?

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in whom do you trust?

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-rubelRabbi Israel Salanter was in a hotel once, and the person in charge, a Jewish fellow, asked the rabbi, not knowing who he was, if he knew how to do shechita, (how to properly slaughter animals). Rabbi Salanter then said, "Why do you ask?" The fellow answered that he had an animal that needed to be slaughtered for dinner, and instead of taking it to the slaughterhouse, he hoped that Rabbi Salanter would be able do it right there. Rabbi Salanter answered that he was sorry, but he was not an expert in shechita.

Later that day, Rabbi Salanter went to the same fellow and asked to borrow 5 rubels. The fellow looked at the rabbi and said, "How can I lend to you 5 rubles, for I don’t know who you are? I never met you, so how can I lend to you 5 rubles? Who says you are going to pay me back?" Rabbi Salanter replied that when it came to asking about shechita, the fellow didn’t know him but trusted the rabbi anyway simply because he had a beard. But now when it came to money, he didn’t trust the rabbi at all. His money was more important to him than his religion.

Trustworthiness is something we like in other people.  When we have trust in others, our relationships flourish and we can reach higher levels of camaraderie.  The world becomes a better place when people are there for each other.

But the ability to trust someone does not come from merely having a need.  As in this story above, the man did not even know Rabbi Salanter and yet he wanted him to slaughter an animal for his dinner.  Had he known about Rabbi Salanter's credentials, he would have realized that he was the wrong person to ask.  Yet, he had no clue who he was and was trusting that he would perform something for him that truly needed an expert hand (merely by his judgement of who he looked like). This kind of misplaced trust is a questionable practice.  In matters such as these, trust can only be given when there has been a demonstration of competence and fact-checking.

In the case of money, the man was extremely skeptical and did not see a reason to lend Rabbi Salanter any money.  While it is true that he didn't know Rabbi Salanter, in this case he could have given him a chance, knowing that he would only have asked because he was in need.  At the same time, he also would not be obligated to lend to him because indeed he didn't know him and had no guarantee of repayment. 

Trusting others, especially those who we just encounter, can be tricky territory.  On one hand, how can we begin to trust someone who is new to our circle if we do not know them?  A Russian proverb says, "Trust, but verify."  Everyone needs a chance to become trusted, but that trust should never be placed blindly.  If we are able to find out whether someone has a shem tov (good name), we should by all means seek that information out.  But if we have no way of knowing, we have to begin somewhere.  Start small, be cautious, but realize that people need a chance.  In time, the measure of someone's trustworthiness will be made known. 

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