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Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar

My Perfect Non-Reader asked to have her tzedakah money in quarters.

Temple Beth Bolshoi’s Hebrew School collects cash money from each kid each session, to be counted up, and at the end of the year given to some worthy cause. The Hebrew word tzedakah means charity (but also righteousness and justice; I prefer to think of it as justice money, myself), and they are attempting to inculcate the charitable habit in these kids. This is a Good Thing, as force of habit is just about the strongest force there is. So twice a week, I put my hand in my pocket and come up with a dollar, which I give to my daughter, which she gives to her teacher. And then a couple of weeks ago, she asked if she could have quarters instead of a bill.

My Best Reader and I were, naturally I think, curious about this, but my Perfect Non-Reader clearly did not want to tell us what was going on, and we shrugged and complied. And again the next time, and then the next. My initial fear was that she was spending the money at the vending machine instead of donating it, but (a) I don’t really think my daughter would do that, particularly when she denied it when I asked her outright, and (2) I realized that was twentieth-century thinking, and that the vending machines must certainly take dollar bills these days. Finally I managed to winkle out of her the reason, which I found very interesting.

It seems that her teacher this year rewards the class with a tasty treat on those days when every student brings tzedakah money, and the class has responded by sharing out quarters, so that some part of the donation can come from the name of any student who has forgotten. That way, everybody gets a cookie, and all the money still goes where it is supposed to go. I don’t know who came up with this plan, but it seems to be working so far.

I’m afraid I approved the plan, after it was explained to me. It isn’t exactly honest, and the Divine knows the Perfect Non-Reader is not deprived of the occasional cookie, but on the other hand, it shows (to me) a certain admirable impulse, a communal identity, and a rather charming guile. And it’s not far from being a perfect response to their incentives. At some point, I will need to have a conversation with her about free riding, and perhaps introduce her to some game theory. On the other hand, since (a) she is getting the cookie she wants, without added cost to her or loss to the ultimate charity, and (2) both she and her father are sufficiently disorganized and foggy-headed to make it likely my Perfect Non-Reader will have her full share of receiving, rather than giving, the odd quarters, those conversations may not convince her to change her behavior. Perhaps I should restrict myself to making sure she doesn’t deceive her teacher about what’s going on—and perhaps, now that I think about it, I will give her a dollar out of my pocket and allow her to supplement with quarters out of her piggy bank, if necessary to get treats.

Mostly, I wish I knew whether my daughter participates in this harmless ruse out of her own free will, or whether she is bowing to pie pressure. I doubt she knows herself, though, so I suppose I must just resign myself to speculation.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Is "pie pressure" there a Freudian slip? Because it sounds more like cookie pressure to me; a powerful force indeed.

Oops! pie pressure is one of the malapropisms that has snuck in to my speech and writing patterns and is ensconced so deeply now I use it without intending to make a joke. This one stems from an incident at a restaurant known for its pieā€¦ I imagine the details are unnecessary. But pie pressure is, in my experience much worse than cookie pressure, if only because the consequences are so much greater.


hee!! I liked the idea of bowing to pie pressure. :) I can certainly empathize with it. :)

It is a sweet idea, and does show a certain communal give and take that is absolutely in line with the overall vision.

Why do you think of it as justice money? That sounds like another theological blog entry in itself. :) I like thinking of it as charity--freely given, freely received, and all that, rather than something that evens out the scales on my behalf.

it's ok. no way the teacher has documents for the cookie, foreclosure is out of the question.

I like your idea of giving her a dollar and telling her she can supplement it with her own quarters; that seems eminently fair to me, and more in the spirit of things.

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