A S’dom-Like Decree

A story — one that is possibly apocryphal — is told of the time the Gaon of Vilna was consulted by leaders of the community about a proposed regulation to ban non-residents of their city from collecting tzedakah in Vilna.

The Gaon reminded the askanim that under an existing agreement, he was only to be consulted about new rules and regulations.

“But this is a new regulation,” they countered.

“What new legislation?” said the Gaon. “This was already the law of S’dom and Amorah!”

As reported on page 5 of this issue, a southern New Jersey town now requires beggars to obtain permits.

The Middle Township ordinance reads that “It shall be unlawful for any person to ask, beg or solicit alms upon the streets or elsewhere in the Township without first obtaining a permit from the Township.”

Nor is such a permit guaranteed.

“Persons may apply in writing for permission to ask, beg or solicit alms, which such permission shall be issued on a case-by-case basis upon review of the Municipal Police Department,” the ordinance states. While there is no fee for the permit, photo identification is required with the application.

Begging is a very difficult and humiliating experience, and those who are forced to do so suffer enough. Many of the individuals who find themselves in such dire straits are unlikely to have a driver’s license or passport, and so the photo ID requirement is an additional, formidable obstacle.

In reality, these collectors are the ones giving donors the opportunity to amass a great and much-needed merit, and are doing all those around them a great favor.

Such an outrageous regulation is reminiscent of the lifestyle of Sedom, and we urge the people of Middle Township to rescind this coldhearted decree immediately.