Ethics

For the week ending 22 July 2006 / 26 Tammuz 5766

Above Suspicion

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: When I go shopping for groceries I sometimes fail to find everything I’m looking for in a single store. Entering a second store while carrying my bag of items I purchased in the first one may raise some suspicion that I am a shoplifter when I fail to pay for them. I know the truth, but what is the right thing to do?

Answer: When the tribes of Reuven and Gad were told the condition for receiving their desired portion of Eretz Yisrael, they were cautioned to conduct themselves in a manner which would allow them to “be blameless before G-d and Israel.” This set a standard of behavior for everyone to always avoid suspicion even though you are perfectly honest.

In the situation you describe you may be the object of suspicion in the eyes of the storekeeper or other shoppers. Although it may be uncomfortable for you to reveal to the second storekeeper that you did preliminary shopping elsewhere, your only way of remaining “blameless before Israel” is to deposit your bag at the checkout counter upon entering and claiming it only when you are ready to leave the store after paying for what you bought there.

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