Charity

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It is a positive mitzvah to give Tzedaka (charity) to the poor people of Israel; one who hardens his heart and doesn't give violates a Torah commandment [1].

General guidelines

  1. There is no bracha for the mitzvah of Tzedaka. See the footnote for different reasons suggested. [2]
  2. Many opinions hold that if one decided to give charity mentally without expressing it verbally, one should fulfill that decision. [3]
  3. If one verbalizes this commitment, one must make good on it immediately to not violate the command "בל תאחר / do not delay" [4]. If no poor are available, one must set it aside until he finds poor people. [5].
  4. One should be very careful not to raise his voice against or embarrass a poor person [6].
  5. There is doubt whether it counts as Tzedaka if you give Tzedaka to someone who is a fraud. Therefore, one must attempt to verify whether the person is poor before one gives [7].
  6. A person shouldn't accept honor by virtue of the Tzedaka that he gives; however, if he donates something, it is permitted for his name to be written on it, so that it should be a remembrance for him; it is fitting to do this [8].

Collectors of Tzedaka

  1. Someone collecting tzedaka should not do so in the middle of Chazarat Hashatz or Kiryat Hatorah since it disturbs the concentration of those who are davening and listening to kriyat hatorah.[9]

Who is obligated to give?

  1. Even a poor person, himself supported from Tzedaka, who has some money of his own that isn't needed for business, should give Tzedaka even if it’s only a small amount. [10]. This is because he has a way of making a livelihood--namely, collecting Tzedaka--which won't be hampered by his giving Tzedaka [11].
  2. A poor person who doesn't have much shouldn't feel bad that he can't give much, because his small amount is better than a lot from a wealthy person [12].
  3. Someone who only has enough for his livelihood isn't obligated to give, since his livelihood takes precedence to others [13].

How much to give

  1. The community should supply a poor person who asks in private the amount he is lacking with respect to his previous standard of living. However, to a poor person who is knocking on doors the community only needs to give him money for 2 meals and a place to stay. [14]
  2. It is better to give a lot of poor people a little money, then to give one poor person a lot of money. [15]
  3. One who gives to charity shouldn't give more than a fifth of his income, so that he doesn't become poor himself during his life; on his death bed, he can give up to 1/3 of his inheritance to charity [16].
  4. One is forbidden to turn away a beggar empty-handed, even if one only gives him one fig. If one doesn't have any money, one should comfort him with words [17].

Whom To Give To

  1. The community should also give non-Jews food and clothing, similar to Jews, because of "Darchei Shalom" / so as to not promote poor relations with non-Jews [18].
  2. In order of preference: One should give to his poor relatives before the poor of his city, the poor of his city before the poor of a different city. [19]. However, a public charity collector must not give precedence to his relatives [20].
  3. It is still called "Tzedaka" to give money to one's children above 6 years of age (one is not obligated to support them beyond that age), in order to support one's sons for Torah learning or guide one's daughters in a proper path, and to give money to a father who can't support himself. Indeed, they take precedence over other people entitled to receive Tzedaka [21].
  4. One must be especially careful to give to a poor Torah scholar. If he doesn't want to receive it, we sell him merchandise at a low price and buy it at a high price, or give him money to do business. [22].

How to Give it

  1. One who gives Tzedaka should do it from the best of his property. If one buys a place of prayer, it should be nicer than his house. One who feeds a poor person should give him from the best things on his table. One who gives clothing to someone who doesn't have should give him from the nicest of his clothing. [23].
  2. Anyone who gives Tzedaka to a poor person with a negative expression or face looking at the ground--even if he gave him 1,000 gold pieces--loses his merit, and in fact violates a Torah commandment [24]. Rather, one is obligated to give him with a nice expression, with happiness, with empathy for his plight, and with words of encouragement [25].
  3. The highest form of Tzedaka is preventing a poor person from becoming poor in the first place--for example, giving him a proper gift in a respectable way that prevents him from becoming poor, loaning him, becoming a business partner, or finding him a job [26].
  4. One should be careful to give Tzedaka as privately as possible; if possible, it is best if he doesn't know whom he is giving to, and they don't know whom they received it from. [27].

Maaser Kesafim

For Sefardim: There is a praiseworthy minhag to give a tenth of one’s income in charity every year. Before accepting this minhag one should stipulate that one will be able to use the money set aside for Maaser could be used for Mitzvot. [28]

  1. If one has financial difficulty one should stipulate from the beginning that one will only give Maaser after having subtracted all of one’s expenses from one’s incomes. [29]

For Ashkenazim:

  1. The first year, one takes 1/10th of his principle. From then on, one takes 1/10th of the total of one's income minus one's living expenses. [30].
  2. The standard obligation is 1/10 but the choicest Mitzvah is to give 1/5th of one's income to tzedaka. [31] One shouldn't give more than a 1/5 so that one doesn't become poor himself except before he is going to die. [32]
  3. If someone losses money by losing it or theft it can be deducted from one's earnings of the year before calculating maaser.[33]

What to do with the Ma'aser money?

  1. This money should go to the poor, not for some other purpose, e.g. giving candles to a shul [34].
  2. If one had the opportunity to be a "בעל ברית" (?), help a poor bride and groom get married, and to buy Sefarim to learn and lend to others to learn--if he couldn't otherwise do those Mitzvos with his own money, without the Ma'aser money, he can use the Ma'aser money for these purposes. [35].
  3. However, if one buys books with Ma'aser money, one must be careful to loan them to others unless one is using them (in which case one's use takes precedence). He should also be careful to write on them "from Ma'aser money", so that his children later don't take possession of them [36].

Taking Tzedaka

  1. A person should endeavor to refrain from taking charity and endure some hardship in order not to take charity. Chazal state that it is preferable to make your Shabbat meal like a weekday rather than take from charity. (See the Kavod Shabbat page for the practical laws about how a poor person should fulfill Kavod Shabbat.) Anyone who presses himself to live with difficulty without taking charity is blessed to one day have enough money to support others. [37]
  2. Someone who can't live without Tzedaka--e.g. an elderly person, sick person, or someone suffering--but is haughty and doesn't take, sins by not taking [38].
  3. A person who doesn't need to take charity and nonetheless deceives people and takes won't die before he genuinely becomes poor.[39]

Tzedaka before Pesach

see Maot Chitim

Statements of Chazal about Tzedaka

  1. Tzedaka is a trait that characterizes the descendants of Avrohom Avinu [40].
  2. The Jewish religion isn't stable without charity [41]
  3. The one who does Tzedaka [42] is better than all the Korbanos [43].
  4. Israel will only be redeemed through Tzedaka [44]
  5. No one ever becomes poor out of giving Tzedaka, and no bad thing nor damage comes from Tzedaka [45]
  6. If one has mercy, Hashem will be merciful to him [46]
  7. Hashem is close to the poor, so one must be careful to hear their cries [47].
  8. A person should think: just as he davens to Hashem for a Parnassa / livelihood, and Hashem gives to him, so too should a person listen to the poor [48].
  9. A person shouldn't say, "how can I diminish my money and give it to the poor", because he should know that the money doesn't belong to him, but is instead a deposit from Hashem in order to do His will[49].
  10. Tzedaka pushes aside evil decrees and adds life.[50]
  11. One who convinces others to give is greater than the one who gives. [51].
  12. The reward for a Tzedaka collector is great; if the poor give him a hard time, he shouldn't be worried, for this increases his reward [52].
  13. One who gives charity in secret is greater than Moshe Rabbenu [53]
  14. One who gives even a peruta to the poor merits to receive the presence of God. [54]
  15. Whoever gives even a small coin to a poor man receives six blessings, but whoever speaks reassuringly to him receives eleven blessings. [55]
  16. If a person closes his eyes to avoid giving [any] charity, it is as if he committed idolatry. [56]

Related Pages

  1. Matanot_LeEvyonim
  2. Month_of_Nissan#Maot_Chitim

Links

Sources

  1. See Devarim 15:7-11, Rambam Sefer HaMitzvot (Mitzvah Aseh #195)
  2. The Sh"t HaRashba 1:18 explains that there's no bracha for the mitzvah of tzadaka because it depends on the reciever and since it is possible that he receiver will not accept the money, chazal didn't establish a bracha for the mitzvah. The Aruch HaShulchan YD 240:2 explains that the reason there is no bracha for Tzadaka is because both Jews and non-Jews do this deed. Since the primary difference between a Jew and non-Jew who take such actions is the intent, that the Jew does it in order to fulfill a mitzvah and the non-Jew does it because its moral, for such an action one may not say "Asher Kideshanu" - we were commanded in this specific action.
  3. There's two opinions in Shulchan Aruch C”M 212:8 if a mental thought to make something hekdesh or tzedaka is binding. The Rama C”M 212:8 and Y"D 258:13 writes that the halacha is that it is binding. Yechave Daat 6:52 has a doubt about the opinion of Shulchan Aruch. On the one hand, since there are two opinions in S”A, it would seem that the halacha is like the second one, who in this case is lenient. But, on the other hand, the second opinion is quoted as yesh mi she'omer in singular, whereas the first is quoted in plural yesh omrim. Yalkut Yosef y"d 247-259:12 just quotes Shulchan Aruch but doesn't give a definitive ruling. In one article of DailyHalacha by Rabbi Mansour, he writes that we're lenient according to the opinion of the Daat Esh who says that everyone agrees that its not binding if the whole event was mental but there's a dispute if you said you'd give but didn't specify. However, the Yechave Daat 6:52 argues that this opinion is not implied by Shulchan Aruch. However, in another article Rabbi Mansour writes that we're machmir that it is binding according to the Or Letzion.
  4. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:9
  5. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:9
  6. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:8
  7. http://www.ravaviner.com/2010/02/giving-tzedakah-to-beggars.html
  8. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:13
  9. Pri Megadim M"Z 566:3
  10. Kitzur S”A 34:2
  11. Kitzur S”A 34:2
  12. Kitzur S”A 34:2
  13. Kitzur S”A 34:2
  14. Kitzur S”A 34:3
  15. Rambam Peirush Hamishnayot Avot 3:15
  16. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4
  17. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:8
  18. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:3
  19. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:6, learned out from the verse: לאחיך לעניך ולאביונך בארצך. The Ran (Nedarim 65b s.v. elah) says there is an obligation to support relatives in need based on the pasuk of Vechay Achicha Imach (Vayikra 25:35).
  20. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:6
  21. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:6
  22. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:14
  23. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:5
  24. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:7
  25. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:7
  26. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:12
  27. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:13. See earlier, that it is clear that one must give to a person in legitimate need
  28. Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A YD 247:10)
  29. Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur S”A YD 247:10)
  30. Shulchan Aruch YD 249:1, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4
  31. Shulchan Aruch YD 249:1, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4
  32. Ketubot 67b, Rama YD 249:1
  33. The Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser (p. 140)
  34. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4
  35. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4
  36. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:4
  37. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:15-16
  38. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:16
  39. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:16
  40. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  41. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  42. In this instance, "tzedaka" refers to acts of kindness as well, because the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch described it as one who does Tzedaka, not one who gives Tzedaka
  43. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  44. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1. Gemara Baba Batra 10a also says that one who gives tzedaka brings the geula closer. Gemara Shabbat 139a says that Jerusalem will only be redeemed through tzedakah
  45. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1, Mishlei 28:27
  46. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  47. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  48. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  49. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1
  50. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:1. Mishlei 10:2 says that tzedakah saves from death.
  51. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:11
  52. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:11
  53. Gemara Baba Batra 9b. Gemara Chagiga 5a tells that Rabbi Yanai once saw a man give money to a poor man publicly. He said, “It would have been better for you not to have given him anything rather than giving to him as you did, causing him embarrassment.
  54. Gemara Baba Batra 10a
  55. Gemara Baba Batra 9b
  56. Gemara Ketubot 68a