Ethics

For the week ending 21 January 2006 / 21 Tevet 5766

When to Avoid Doing a Favor

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: Just as I was about to enter the airport for a trans-Atlantic flight I was approached by a stranger who asked me to do him a favor by taking a small package with me which someone would receive from me upon arrival. I had no problem with my luggage being overweight but I turned down the request because I wasn’t sure it was the safe thing to do. What is the right thing to do in such a case?

Answer: Although the general rule is that one who refuses to do a favor for someone else when there is no loss to him is guilty of having the corrupt, selfish character of the ancient Sodomites, in this case you were very wise to refuse.

First of all there is the security issue. You will recall that when you pass through security at the airport you are asked whether you received a package from anyone whom you do not know. If you answer truthfully, the package will be taken from you and cause a very unpleasant delay at best, or confiscation at worst.

Secondly, there have been incidents in which a naive favor-doer was stopped by customs inspectors upon his arrival and discovered to be carrying a large amount of drugs or diamonds in the innocent looking package. Such victims have experienced great difficulty in escaping conviction for illegal activity, especially since they were unable or unwilling to identify the scoundrel who gave them the package.

In conclusion, save your favors for safer circumstances and politely turn down the stranger at the airport.

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