Ethics

For the week ending 21 July 2012 / 1 Av 5772

For Whom the Bell Rings

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: It often happens that I hear someone ringing my doorbell while I am in the middle of a telephone conversation. While I am hesitant to interrupt my telephone talk by going to the door, I do appreciate the anxiety of the person at the door who is ringing. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: Your sensitivity towards the feelings of others is to be complimented. In regard to the question of priorities which you propose, the determination must be made as to who will suffer most from your action. Let us draw a comparison between the discomfort caused to your telephone partner who is asked to hold on for a minute and that of a person at the door who receives no response to his ringing:

  1. The person on the phone is aware that you are on the line and will be resuming the discussion once you answer at the door. The person at the door has no indication of whether you are at home and suffers some anxious moments until you finally show.
  2. The investment of effort to reach you by the phone caller was no more than pressing a few buttons, while the person at the door made a considerable effort to come to your home.

The conclusion is that you should ask the party on the phone to hold on while you see who is at your door.

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