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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Rabbi Who Returned $98,000 Found in a Desk Not ‘Good Samaritan’

We should set the record straight on this term, at least when it comes to describing the noble act of a Jewish person.
Rabbi Noah Muroff with cash.

Rabbi Noah Muroff with cash.
Photo Credit: WTNH-TV

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New Haven Rabbi Noah Muroff and his wife found a huge pile of cash after buying a desk on Craigslist.

Rabbi Muroff, a teacher at a private Jewish high school in New Haven, told WTNH-TV that he found the money because he had to dismantle the desk to get it inside his home office after he bought it in September.

“The desk did not fit into this office by a fraction of an inch,” he said.

“Behind the drawers there is this plastic bag, like a shopping bag,” he continued. “In the bag, I could already see through the bag, it looks like a one hundred dollar bill. We open it up and it’s full of cash. And we counted up and there’s $98,000 cash sitting in the bag.”

And then, naturally, “right away my wife and I sort of looked at each other and said we can’t keep this money.”

The original owner was speechless, and managed to utter only: “Oh my gosh, because I… oh my God.”

One thing The Jewish Press feels obligated to correct: the Muroffs have been described, time and again, in the media coverage of their excellent behavior, as “good Samaritans.” They’re not. They’re very good Jews.

The term “good Samaritan” is an anti-Jewish slur included in the “new testament,” and intended to shame Jews.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:29–37), about a traveler who is beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. A Kohen and then a then a Levy come by, but both avoid the man. Finally, a Samaritan—a gentile whose practices are a derivative of Jewish tradition, comes by, and he helps the injured man.

The story is used as a putdown of the Kohen and levy, who are on their way to Jerusalem to fulfill their temple service—for which they must maintain their spiritual purity, meaning not touch the dead. They keep to the highway because the shoulder of the road is likely to emit “tumah,” the impurity of the dead. If they contract tumah, they’d have to spend a week cleansing themselves of it and miss out on their very short time of service (the kohanim only served two weeks or so each year).

If the man looked dead, the two temple servants were not going to risk their service on his behalf. The parable is clearly not documenting an actual event, but is one of those typical early Christian attacks on the Prushim (Pharisees), the Rabbinical Jews and their “odd” preferences. They switched to actually murdering those rabbinical Jews as soon as they gained sufficient power.

But it’s intolerable that the fine and selfless act of a Jew would be used to push that despicable story one more time.

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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39 Responses to “Rabbi Who Returned $98,000 Found in a Desk Not ‘Good Samaritan’”

  1. Uri DeYoung says:

    Even Ben Sedaka, himself a Samaritan, finds the term offensive since the original story was simply a piece of Christian propaganda.

  2. Uri DeYoung says:

    Even Ben Sedaka, himself a Samaritan, finds the term offensive since the original story was simply a piece of Christian propaganda.

  3. Moishi Cohen says:

    thanks for educating us on the subject

  4. Beaul D. Hunkapiller says:

    After 2000 years still can't get that helping someone in need is more important than keeping religious rules

  5. Beaul: If you read and accepted Yori's explanation you'd understand that the Kohen and the Levi assumed the man was dead. Maybe a wrong assumption but they had no obligation that overrode their obligation to remain pure. Just as Rabbi Muroff acted in good (Jewish) faith by returning the money he found; they too would have stopped to help the wounded man. Their/our religious rules obligate us to do so.

  6. Robin Rosenblatt says:

    “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel (הלל) (born Babylon traditionally c.110 BCE, died 10 CE.

    So help bring these Longhorns home to Israel to help defend the Ranches and farms, and help the herds with their desert genetics http://longhornproject.org/

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love the smell of am haartzus in the morning.

  8. James Bolen says:

    Just as ox is in a ditch they would help to get out, but they Assumed the guy was dead. They did not even stop to check or to look as the story is told. And by Torah the Kohen would be unclean If he was dead and If he touched him just until night fall after he had mikvahed.

  9. Chuck W Bird says:

    Amazing how some twist this around as if it's the Levi who has a job to do, which is better than someone who really cared if this man needed help, sorry, it was the Samaratin who has a much better idea, If I am ever in this situation, I will hope someone has a basic human value to help me.

  10. Although I completely agree that it would better for them not to call these wonderful honest Jews “Samaritans,” I’d feel amiss if I did not say that in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” no where does it say that the Kohen or/and levy were on their way to the Temple for temple service. It simply says they happened to passed by that way.


  11. Larry Brook says:

    Thank you!!! I never use that term and hate that people don’t understand it’s a slam against us.

  12. Ron Winner says:

    accolades for ethics and integrity..commendable..my son is an orthodox rabbi in mass.would do likewise..I on the other hand, will not vouch for my temptation….

  13. Douglas Work says:

    There was a rumor going around that this was David , but I stood up for you.

  14. Dan O'Mara says:

    I was shocked by what Yori wrote,assuming he was a man of good intent. The prophet Hosea speaking for G-d says" I desire mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God,more than burnt offerings" I find it hard to believe that you,in your spiritual condition would presume to speak as an authority. Sorry to say.

  15. Dan Silagi says:

    Of all of Yanover's idiotic columns, and there have been plenty lately, this is the numbest and dumbest. A man stops to help someone in trouble, after a Kohen and a Levy walk on by, because of the incredible stupidity of Jewish law — even for the time of Jesus, that they can't assist an injured man for fear that he might be dying, and thus, the Kohen and the Levi would be rendered "impure." Then the Good Samaritan aids the man. If this story was meant to ridicule an imbecilic practice; so be it. Tell me, Yori, was the man who helped the injured man a "Bad Samaritan?"

  16. It's not, and even a Kohen Gadon (High Priest) is supposed to turn aside to bury a body if there's no one else to do it.

    The New Testament is anti-Semitic. Wrap your head around that.

  17. Kerry Hyde says:

    A good man… Ron you would have done the same .. Cept maybe for a stop for coffee lmao

  18. Dan Silagi says:

    Sorry, Hillel, but I didn't miss the point. I don't have a problem calling the rabbi "A Good Jew," although I'd prefer to call him either "a mensch" or "A good person." In fact, I'd use the term "Good Samaritan" to refer to one who saves a life, or saves one from injury or potential injury (such as rescuing someone from a burning building." But my point was there's nothing wrong with calling someone a good Samaritan, and yes, Halaichic law which proscribes Kohenim or Levis from rescuing someone because that person might die (or already be dead) is utterly ridiculous, and if Jesus (or Luke) called Halaicha out for it, so be it; Halaicha deserves to be roundly criticized for such a ruling. I don't believe in the divinity of Jesus, but he was certainly an exceptional man, and we can all learn a lot from him. As Jews and as humans, we are obligated to help our fellow man, regardless if we're Kohens or Levites or whether this occurs on Shabbat or any other day of the week. If we're really God's favorites (we're not), we should behave like we deserve to be God's favorites, even if we aren't.

  19. Dan Silagi says:

    As I stated previously, I reserve the term "Good Samaritan" for someone who helps a person (or animal) who is injured, or who will potentially be injured. Retrieving lost objects, no matter how valuable, really doesn't count, unless it's a lost pet.

  20. Dan Silagi says:

    Based upon that logic, a Kohen wouldn't perform CPR on one who's stopped breathing. I find that logic utterly repulsive.

  21. Dan Silagi says:

    Marc Gottlieb It is far more important to help the injured (or apparently dead) than it is to follow some ridiculous rule promulgated not by God, but by some moronic rabbi pretending to speak for God.

  22. Hillel HaLevi says:

    You completely missed the point. The story is made up and it is made up in such a way to make Jews look bad. If it was a true story than your point would have some validity. Instead, you're criticizing halacha and Jews based on the behavior of FICTIONAL characters, which by definition means they are fake. You also perverted the definition of the halacha. If the person was dying or might die, they are allowed to touch him and would be required to and surely would if they were the least bit righteous individuals.

  23. Dan O'Mara says:

    `The educational point might have been better made without Christian bashing. The gospel story was in response to the question"Who is my neighbor?" Like the Samaritan,the rabbi was a good neighbor.

  24. Dan Silagi says:

    Well, how do you know it was fictional? Because it's in the New Testament, ergo; it's all made up? Are you saying Jesus was fictional? There were over 50 gospels written about Jesus, only four made a divinity out of him; naturally, those were the four the Emperor Constantine picked. When 50 people who were more or less contemporaneous with Jesus wrote about him, at a time when few were literate, I go with the 50.

    I don't believe Jesus resurrected anybody, but if he could bring Lazurus back to life, this Kohen could have applied CPR or the ancient analogue of CPR on someone he saw lying on the road, not breathing.

  25. Dan Silagi says:

    Dan O'Mara Excellent comment; to the point without being wordy.

  26. Joseph Colen says:

    When a good Puerto Rican does a good deed we do not say that a good Cuban did the good deed. In this case a good Jew did it and not a good Palestinian. Learn the difference.

  27. Hillel HaLevi says:

    Dan O'Mara I don't see how this is Christian bashing. It's just stating facts about actual events that occurred in history. The history of the term "Samaritan" is clearly anti-semitic. The inclusion of Christianity as the origin of this story is a crucial part of the explanation. Throughout most of the last 2000 years, Christians were the biggest oppressors of Jews and usually in the name of Jesus and Christianity. Fortunately, Christianity and Christians have become much more friendly to Jews and Judaism in recent times. These are the facts If you don't agree, then we'll just have to agree to disagree.

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