Now that the warm weather has finally arrived and Jews who lead traditional lives have embarked on the Three Weeks of mourning that precede Tisha b’Ov, the Ninth of Av, the day when both Temples were destroyed, the pre-Rosh Hashana shnor-season is nearly upon us. Jewish mailboxes will soon be filling up with letters from Jewish organizations of every sort, all of them competing for Jewish charitable dollars at a time when events in the Middle East are keeping many American Jews from focusing on anything other than events in the Middle East.
Charity is a great mitsve, of course, and can’t really be confused with begging or shnoring. While shnorer is sometimes used interchangeably with betler, which means “beggar,” the shnorer is generally considered more of a sponge or a mooch. In the traditional Jewish view of things, begging is just another bad job. A beggar gets up in the morning and gets right to work—der betler iz shoyn in dritn dorf, “the beggar’s on his third village already,” means “get a move on, time’s a-wasting;” beggars play music, sing, do physical tricks, wipe the windshields of stopped cars and engage in other activities designed to pass as services to be rewarded or entertainment to be paid for. A betler begs; a shnorer puts the touch on his victims. A large corporation with annual profits of over a billion dollars that seeks subsidies from Washington cannot be called a betler, but it’s sure as hell a shnorer.
This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week. Below are some items for sale from eBay for those of you with an interest in Yiddish.
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