Ethics

For the week ending 4 June 2011 / 1 Sivan 5771

An Overdose of “Vitamin P”

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: The school in which I wish to enroll my daughter is flooded with applications and will only accept a limited number of students. My daughter may not be the leading candidate based on her academic record but I do have pull with a key member of the admissions committee. Is it right for me to use this connection to get her accepted?

Answer: A guest speaker once arrived at a university auditorium where he was scheduled to speak about how to get ahead in life. His busy schedule had denied him the opportunity to properly prepare his lecture, and he relied on being struck with an inspiration. This did indeed happen when he reached the door of the hall and saw the word "Push". He quickly decided to extol the virtues of ambition and aggressiveness indicated by that word. He therefore began his talk by telling his audience that there was one element in life which was indispensable to success, and that they could discover what it was by looking at the door of the hall the way he had done. The students dutifully turned around and saw on their side of the entrance door the word "Pull".

Pull, otherwise known as "protektzia" or "Vitamin P", is indeed an important element in life, and it is difficult to fault the use of it as immoral unless it is used to put down a competing candidate. The problem that may arise, however, is an overdose of Vitamin P. This happens when parents have been warned by the school of their choice that their daughter would do better elsewhere but ignore this advice and use their pull to force her acceptance into this prestigious school. The same situation arises in regard to a position for which you have been told you are not suited and you use your connections to get hired anyway.

Tragic results have often resulted from such a misuse of connections, because the school or the position has actually proved to be counterproductive. Before using the pull you do well to remember what a wise cynic once said: "There are two tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want. The other is getting it."

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