The tax returns filed by Rav Shimon Schwab, revered rav of K’hal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, New York, attracted the attention of the United States Internal Revenue Service. He was summoned for an audit, because the IRS could not
believe that a man of such modest means was giving the amount of charity reported on his return. The rav’s tax forms also listed literally everything he received, even gifts from friends. “‘I don’t want to be a bedi’eved Yid,’ he would say, ‘I want to be a lechat’chilah Yid.’ An accountant from the kehillah represented Rav Schwab at the audit. When it was over, “the IRS agent declared that never, in all his years as an auditor, had he met anyone who was so forthcoming and meticulous in reporting income and in documenting all contributions. He followed that with a letter to Rabbi Schwab saying that the latter’s scrupulous honesty ‘had restored my faith in humanity’” (“The Ish HaEmes: The Man of Unimpeachable Integrity, Rabbi Shimon Schwab,” by Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Klugman, The Ethical Imperative - Torah Perspectives on Ethics and Values, p. 562). A question presented to my Jerusalem yeshivah students elicited a response that was unanimous, regardless of their profession and country of origin: the best thing about work is the paycheck, and the worst is taxes. No matter where we live and work, almost from time immemorial, taxes in one form or another have always been an inevitable part of life. Are we in fact obligated by halachah to pay taxes? If so, must we be quite as meticulous as Rav Schwab?