Ethics

For the week ending 25 July 2009 / 3 Av 5769

Conversation at the Checkout Counter

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: A long line of people is waiting to be served at the checkout counter of a supermarket. The line has stopped moving as fast as it should because one of the shoppers is carrying on a friendly conversation with the person at the cash register. I'm not sure whose fault it is but all of us behind this gabfest are very upset. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: Both the shopper and clerk are responsible for your inconvenience and there is definitely something you can and should do.

Harboring an unspoken hatred for both parties guilty of gabbing at your expense will achieve nothing more than your becoming guilty of violating the Torah prohibition against hating someone in your heart. The right thing to do is to gently communicate to the conversers that you and others in the line feel it is unfair for them to carry on their conversation at your expense. The Torah's recipe for avoiding hatred of others is to reprove them by calling to their attention the fact that they have hurt you. This gives the other person a chance to either explain that he was unaware of doing any harm or at least to apologize for doing so.

If your call to the conversers at the checkout counter is done in a gentle, unoffending manner the line will get moving with no one being hurt.

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