Avoiding a Spiritual Scam

Thursday, 19 October, 2017 - 1:29 pm

Recently someone I know had to reinstall a Microsoft product on their computer. After doing a search for the product website she clicked on a link that turned out to be a scam masquerading as Microsoft. The site prompted for her email and phone, which she provided (big mistake – but an easy one to make). When nothing happened she realized it was the wrong site and she went back and found the correct one. Hours later, she was working on the installation when she got a call from an individual claiming to be a Microsoft tech support rep. He asserted that there was something wrong with the computer and that he could fix it. When she questioned why he was calling her he got aggressive and tried to scare her into allowing him to do the “fix.” She said that she needed to think about it and she would call him back. He gave her a number. When she googled the number, it came up as a known scam company. The red flag of his aggressiveness allowed her to realize that there was something fishy about the offer.

The Baal Shemtov taught that we must derive a lesson in serving Hashem from everything that we encounter. There are times when we are faced with a choice in acting on a particular inclination but we are not sure from where it stems. How do we know which is the real thing and which is the scam?

The story is told of Reb Nochum of Chernobyl who lived in great poverty. Once, a chasid brought him a gift of 300 rubles. After all the visitors left, the aide entered the Rebbe's room to request some money to cover household debts. Rabbi Nochum opened the drawer and the gabbai was surprised to see only a few silver and copper coins. The gabbai, unable to contain himself, asked about the 300 rubles.

“After the wealthy chasid left, another man cried to me that he needed 300 rubles for his daughter's wedding. However, as soon as I decided to give the 300 rubles to this man, a different thought came to my mind, 'Why give so much money to one person, when it can be divided among many families, including my own?' After thinking it through, I concluded that the second idea, to divide the money, was not coming from my Yetzer tov, for then it would have entered my mind immediately. It was only when I decided to do the mitzvah that this thought came along. Therefore," Reb Nochum concluded, "I determined that its purpose was to trick me into inaction. So I fulfilled the advice of my good inclination and gave the entire 300 rubles to the needy chasid."

Sometimes the Yetzer Hara disguises itself in righteous garb. But you can discern it by the aggressiveness with which it spurs you to inaction by distracting you with pious arguments.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who were instrumental in making the holiday month at Chabad so special and successful. You are too numerous to name individually, but you know who you are and we appreciate everything you have done for our community.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a good second month of 5778.
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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