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Laws of Tzedakah - Archives


The Unique Nature of Tzedakah and Chesed

HaRav Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

            “We are obligated to be careful with the Mitzvah of Tzedakah more so than with any other positive Mitzvah. For Tzedakah is the sign of the truly righteous seed of our father, Avraham, as Scripture states: ‘For I have known him (Avraham) in order that he might charge his descendants... to do Tzedakah... (Genesis:18:19)’. And the throne of Israel cannot be established and the true faith cannot stand, except through Tzedakah, as Scripture states ‘You shall be established through Tzedakah (Isaiah 54:14).’ And Israel will not be redeemed except through Tzedakah, as Scripture states: ‘Zion in justice will be redeemed, and its captives through Tzedakah (Isaiah 1:27).’”

Rambam Laws of Gifts to the Poor (10:1)

            “To what extent must a person endeavor to cling always to the trait of kindness, as Scripture states: ‘He told you, Oh man, how good, and what the L-rd requires of you, only doing justice and loving kindness... (Michah 6:8).’ ...The prophet’s message is that, albeit, we all perform acts of kindness, usually these acts come out of a sense of duty... Therefore, do not make the mistake of thinking that by the fact that you do perform acts of kindness you are fulfilling your obligation fully. Rather a person must have a love for this trait of kindness.”

Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed Part II, Chapter One


The Unique Nature of Tzedakah and Chesed

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

            The Talmud in Tractate Shabbos (151a) analyzes the text in Koheles (12:1): “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth before the bad days come to pass and the years about which you will say, ‘I have no desire for them.’” Concerning this last phrase in the text, the Talmud states: “This refers to the era of Moshiach in which there will be neither guilt nor merit. Rashi comments, based on the flow of the Gemora, that this textual analysis disagrees with the opinion that poverty will still exist in the Messianic era,: “‘No merit’ – there will be no means of earning merit since everyone will be rich; and ‘No guilt’ – to harden one’s heart and hold back one’s hand (from giving).” This is an absolutely amazing statement of our Rabbis, that without the Mitzvah of Tzedakah to perform because there will be no poor, life will not be desirous, for the intrinsic guilt or merit of a person is built primarily upon the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.


The Unique Nature of Tzedakah and Chesed

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

            In Parshas Emor the Torah lists the holidays of the year and various Mitzvohs associated with the holidays. However, following the holiday of Shavuos, the Torah interrupts the pattern with the following statement: “When you harvest the harvest of your land, do not completely harvest the corner of your field; nor shall you glean the gleanings of your harvest – to the poor and the stranger you shall leave them – I am the L-rd your G-d (Leviticus 23:22). Several commentaries explain the juxtaposition of laws concerning the care of the poor with the holiday of Shavuos based upon the fact that Shavuos is the holiday of the giving of the Torah. The Torah personality is built upon the concepts of Tzedakah and Chesed. Some go as far to say that Tzedakah and Chesed are not like other Mitzvohs, but are the very foundation of the

Torah. Torah without Tzedakah and Chesed is meaningless. The Talmud actually states (Avodah Zarah 17b): “Rav Huna has said: ‘Anyone who engages only in the study of Torah (to the exclusion of Tzedakah and Chesed) is as if he has no G-d.’” Rashi explains: “to protect him.” Even though the study of Torah is a great source of protection, that is only if that study is by one who is imbued with the traits of Tzedakah and Chesed.


The Unique Nature of Tzedakah and Chesed

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

          This coming Motzaei Shabbos One of the Mitzvohs of the day of Purim is Matanos LaEvyonim – Gifts to the Poor. This Mitzvah is consistent with the theme of unity and harmony among Jews that is very much part of the essence of Purim. We are prone to attack from Amalek only when we are scattered and divided. However, when the Jewish people are in unity, then we are safeguarded from the threats of our enemies.

          The Talmud in Tractate Shabbos (88a) states that in the times of Esther and Mordecai the Jewish people had a renewed acceptance of the Torah, this time without the overpowering revelations of Mount Sinai. We know that after the arrival of the Jews at Mount Sinai, they achieved a sense of unity that was always lacking before (see Rashi on Shemos 19:2). Since Purim also stands for a new acceptance of the Torah, the Mitvohs of the day reflect a drive for unity and harmony among Jews.

          Another way to relate Matanos LaEvyonim to the concept of the renewed acceptance of the Torah is based upon last week’s lesson. Last week we stated that the concepts of Tzedakah and Chesed are prerequisites for the Torah personality. Receiving the Torah without being imbued with Tzedakah and Chesed is meaningless. Since Purim is a day of new acceptance of the Torah, then Matanos LaEvyonim is intrinsic to this very joyous holiday.

A Happy and Healthy Purim to all!


Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

           “We have learned that anyone who has given Tzedakah, even if permission had been granted to an avenging angel to punish him, the angel appointed over Tzedakah will not allow this punishment to take place. Rather the angel of Tzedakah runs and stands among the angels of peace in the highest realms. They hasten him on until he stands before the Holy One. Blessed be He, and defends the giver of Tzedakah before Him. The angel of Tzedakah states: ‘Master of the Universe, this man upon whom You have decreed destruction has a great merit in his hands.’ And the avenging angel responds, ‘For this single act of Tzedakah you will find him innocent? He has committed many transgressions.’ The angel of Tzedakah responds: ‘The Mitzvah of Tzedakah that he has done cancels out all of his transgressions.’ At this point the Holy One. Blessed be He, tells the avenging angel: ‘Do not harm this man, for great merit has been found for him.’”

Respona of the Maharam M’Rutenberg (Prague Edition) at the end of Vol. 3 (Section entitled “Paths of Repentance”)


Why There is No Brachah Made Before Giving Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

           There are several possible answers to explain why we do not make a special Brachah before giving Tzedakah.

           1) We do not make Brachos on Mitzvohs that have no fixed limits. Tzedakah is a Mitzvah that has no limits. Each time a poor person stretches forth his hand the Torah commands us to open ours.

           2) We do not make Brachos on Mitzvohs that involve another person. The common reason given for this is that there is a concern that after the Brachoh is made, the other person might change his mind and not wish to accept (in this case) the Tzedakah. Since a Brachah on doing a Mitzvah must be recited before the performance of the Mitzvah, the Brachah will have been said in vain.

           3) We do not make Brachos on Mitzvohs that involve someone’s state of suffering or misery. Since the poverty of another is the cause of the Mitzvah, no Brachah is made.

           4) Some suggest that we do not make Brachos on Mitzvohs which are rational in nature and are observed by all societies even though they are not commanded to do so. According to this opinion, we only make Brachos on Mitzvohs that only the Jewish people observe. Charity and social welfare are practiced by virtually all societies. This reason is suggested by several authorities to explain why we do not make a Brachah before honoring our parents. Honoring parents is a universal act not limited to Israel, hence there is no Brachah said before honoring parents.

           5) Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg in Seridei Aish (Part Two Chapter 46) offers a novel approach: He suggests that it is preferable that Tzedakah should be given out of deep seated emotions of love for our fellow Jews, rather than because of the commandment. He brings a proof for this concept from a statement of the Rambam, who suggests that the preferability of performing certain Mitzvohs out of self-directed emotion is the possible reason why there is no Brachah for the Mitzvah of honoring parents.



Yom Tov & Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

           While discussing the Mitzvah of celebrating Yom Tov in a joyous fashion, the Rambam states the following: “...And when one eats and drinks, he is obligated to feed the stranger, the orphan, the widow, among the other unfortunate poor. However, one who shuts the doors to his courtyard and eats and drinks with his children and wife and does not provide food and drink to the poor and bitter of spirit, is not involved in the joy of Mitzvah,

but in the joy of his belly. Concerning such people the Prophet Hosea stated: ‘their animal sacrifices are like the bread of mourners to them. All those who partake will be defiled, for their bread is only to satiate their own souls (Hosea 9:4)’ Such ‘joy’ brings disgrace upon such people, as it is stated: ‘And I will fling dung upon your faces – the dung of your holidays. Malachi (2:3)’” (Rambam: Laws of Yom Tov (6:18)

           The Zohar on Parshas Yisro expresses a similar thought, while marking a difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov in this matter: “Come see that at all other times and holidays (not including Shabbos) a person must rejoice and also help the poor to rejoice. But, if he rejoices by himself, and does not give to the poor, his punishment is great; for he rejoices by himself without giving joy to others. Concerning him it is said: ‘And I will fling dung upon your faces – the dung of your holidays. Malachi (2:3)’”


Yom Tov & Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY

           In last week’s Halachah we mentioned the Rambam’s statement in his Laws of Yom Tov (6:18). One might conclude from the Rambam’s statement in Laws of Yom Tov, that if one does not gladden the hearts of the poor and emotionally needy (bitter people) on Yom Tov, then one’s own Mitzvah to be happy on Yom Tov is rejected.

           Rabbi Moshe Sternbach in the seventh volume of Moadim and Zemanim points out another statement of the Rambam in Laws of the Chagigah (2:14). There the Rambam writes as follows: “...When a person slaughters his Shalmei Chagigah and Shalmei Simchah, (special animal sacrifices that were offered on Yom Tov and eaten primarily by the owners, whose purpose was to add to the joy of Yom Tom) it should not be the case that only he and his wife and children partake of these delicacies, and he imagines that he is fulfilling the complete Mitzvah. Rather he is obligated to gladden the hearts of the poor and the unfortunate as it is stated: “...the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan and the widow (Devarim 16:14).” Rabbi Sternbach demonstrates from this statement of the Rambam that the personal Mitzvah of joy on Yom Tov includes giving joy to the poor and needy. Without this element, one’s personal obligation to rejoice remains incomplete. Therefore such joy is considered repugnant for no Mitzvah was fulfilled by it.

           The Rambam at the end of the Laws of Shemittah and Yoveil (13:13), widens the definition of whom the Torah calls a Levite: “And it is not the Tribe of Levi only, but any man from any segment of society, whose spirit has volunteered him, and whose intellectual understanding has caused him to separate from others and to stand before the L-rd, in order to serve and worship Him...and who has removed from his neck all societal yokes which people impose upon themselves; such a person is sanctified as “Holy of Holies.” The L-rd Himself becomes his portion and inheritance for eternity...”

 Him...and who has removed from his neck all societal yokes which people impose upon themselves; such a person is sanctified as “Holy of Holies.” The L-rd Himself becomes his portion and inheritance for eternity...”





The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


           The city of Izmir in Turkey was once a great center of Jewish life. In the early eighteenth century, one of its great Rabbanim, Eliyahu HaKohen, z”l wrote a large and very encompassing work on Tzedakah called the M’il Tzedakah – the Mantle of Tzedakah. This extraordinary work quotes virtually every source from both Talmuds, Medrashim, the Zohar, and Rishonim that discusses the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. However this work, because of its immensity, and lack of indexing, is very difficult to study and retain. In the early nineteenth century, another great scholar of Izmir, the renowned Posek, Rav Chaim Pelagi, z”l, dedicated an entire work, Tzedakah L’Chaim, to arranging the concepts of the M’il Tzedakah in alphabetic order, with specific cross references to that earlier work and with additional references to Rabbi Pelagi’s own writings as well as the writings of other great scholars on topics involved with Tzedakah. In the next few months, please (G-D) we will offer quotations and thoughts from these works.

           “The indication of the greatness of a specific Mitzvah is indicated by the greatness of the opposition and instigation against the performance of that Mitzvah that is orchestrated by the Satan. The greater the Mitzvah, the greater is the attempt by the Evil Inclination to induce us a person not to perform the Mitzvah (M’il Tzedakah: 1,267, 1,300, 1,348, 1,745). The Evil Inclination also tries to add some element of sadness to the performance of a Mitzvah particularly in those areas where some expenditure is involved (such as Tzedakah – RYG).” Tzedakah L’Chaim 261.






The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


           “R. Shmuel bar Nachman said: ‘Parnassah (making a living) is more difficult than redemption. For redemption is through an agent, as Scripture states: “The Angel who redeems me from all evil (Breishis 48:16),” and Parnassah is through the Holy One Blessed be He, as Scripture states: “G-D who has provided for me (Breishis 48:15).”’

            R. Yehoshua ben Levi said: ‘(making a living) is harder than the Splitting of the Red Sea; as Scripture states: “To divide the sea into strips (Psalms: 136:25)” which is followed immediately by: “He gives food to all flesh (Psalms: 136:25).”’”


           The author (of the M’il Tzedakah) states: “After one analyzes the above statement

how can he possibly say that the poor person is the cause of his own poverty because he is too lazy to work. Is not Parnassah (making a living) more difficult than redemption? It is possible that one can work day and night and still not be able to make an adequate living. And what can a mere person do? Parnassah is totally in the hands of the Holy One Blessed be He. Being so, if the Holy One Blessed be He does not desire to send the poor person his Parnassah, what can that individual possibly do? Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to strengthen the hand of the poor and needy when he approaches and not to be misguided by one’s thoughts; for the Torah states: ‘And you shall strengthen him (VaYikra 25:35).’”

M’il Tzedakah 405.





The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


           “The Sefer Likutei Torah states: ‘”And you shall make for the L-rd your G-d a present of the donation of your hand which you shall give (Deuteronomy: 16:10).”’ The Torah used the phrase “the donation of the hand”, despite the fact that donations stem from the heart,

in order to make us so accustomed to the physical act of Tzedakah, that the hand itself is in a reflex mode to automatically give Tzedakah. This is the gist of his words.”

Tzedakah L’Chaim 272.





The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


           “‘A Tzaddik knows how to act justly with the poor (Proverbs 29:6).’ The Holy One, Blessed be He, knows that the food sources available to a stray dog are limited. Therefore, He enabled the food to remain undigested in the dog’s stomach for three days. And Rav Papa stated: ‘There is no creature poorer than a dog and none richer than a pig.’

           The author (of the M’il Tzedakah) states: “A person should not be astonished when he sees a wicked man who is wealthy and a man who performs Mitzvohs who is poor. For the same situation occurs in the animal kingdom. A pig which is the filthiest of animals is rich, whereas a dog whose species performed a Mitzvah during the exodus from Egypt, as scripture states: ‘And for all the Children of Israel, no dog growled with its tongue (Exodus: 11:7),’ is poor. Rather we must be aware that since Divine Providence causes food to remain undigested in the dog’s stomach for three days, how much more so that the righteous poor are watched over by G-D.

           It seems that we can resolve a difficult statement of the Gemora in Bava Basra (9a):

‘Tornusrufus said to R. Akiva: “If the Holy One, Blessed be He, loves the poor, why does He not provide for them?” The inherent difficulty here is that if G-D did provide for the poor, they would then be rich and there would be no poor and no way of knowing that G-D does indeed love the poor. Rather it seems that Tornusrufus’ intention was to ask why does G-D not provide for them as he does for dogs, whose stomachs do not digest food for three days, so as to minimize their need to find food. And R. Akiva responded that G-D allows the poor to suffer so that by our helping them we are saved along with them from the perils of Gehinom. Consequently, one should attempt to find someone for whom he cam provide Tzedakah on a daily basis.”

M’il Tzedakah 606





The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


           “A person should endeavor to give Tzedakah before he prays, as is hinted in Scripture: ‘Tzedek (meaning righteousness but here is seen as a hint to Tzedakah) shall go before him (Psalms 85:14).’ Look in the M’il Tzedakah 1,668 for many explanations for this... “

Tzedakah L’Chaim 727


           “The reason why we are accustomed to give Tzedakah before praying is comparable to the way it is customary for a person who is coming to make a request before a king to first send a gift to the king. The Tzedakah that one gives before praying during which time one comes to make requests of HaShem, is the very gift to the King, Blessed be He, as it is stated: ‘One who is compassionate to the poor is viewed as one who is lending money to HaShem. (Proverbs 19:17)’.


           In the work The Perfectly Righteous it is written that the Prutah (smallest coin) that we give before prayer is in order to redeem the prayer from any angelic adversary...


           One can further suggest that since one who gives Tzedakah to the poor is viewed as if he is lending money to the Holy One, Blessed is He, as it is stated: ‘One who is compassionate to the poor is viewed as one who is lending money to HaShem (Proverbs 19:17)’; and Scripture also states ‘ And a borrower is like the servant to the man who lends to him (Proverbs 22:7).’ Therefore, by giving Tzedakah before praying, one turns HaShem (so to speak) into a borrower. Since HaShem now “owes’‘ the donor (lender) he must, perforce fulfill his request. This is correct. We can derive from this the incredible power of Tzedakah which (so to speak) “compels” HaShem through a person’s Tzedakah to grant him for good all that he requests in his prayers.”

                                                                                                                       M’il Tzedakah 1,668





The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


           “A person should endeavor to give Tzedakah before he prays, as is hinted in Scripture: ‘Tzedek (meaning righteousness but here is seen as a hint to Tzedakah) shall go before him (Psalms 85:14).’ Look in the M’il Tzedakah 1,668 for many explanations for this... “

Tzedakah L’Chaim 727


           “The reason why we are accustomed to give Tzedakah before praying is comparable to the way it is customary for a person who is coming to make a request before a king to first send a gift to the king. The Tzedakah that one gives before praying during which time one comes to make requests of HaShem, is the very gift to the King, Blessed be He, as it is stated: ‘One who is compassionate to the poor is viewed as one who is lending money to HaShem. (Proverbs 19:17)’.


           In the work The Perfectly Righteous it is written that the Prutah (smallest coin) that we give before prayer is in order to redeem the prayer from any angelic adversary...


           One can further suggest that since one who gives Tzedakah to the poor is viewed as if he is lending money to the Holy One, Blessed is He, as it is stated: ‘One who is compassionate to the poor is viewed as one who is lending money to HaShem (Proverbs 19:17)’; and Scripture also states ‘ And a borrower is like the servant to the man who lends to him (Proverbs 22:7).’ Therefore, by giving Tzedakah before praying, one turns HaShem (so to speak) into a borrower. Since HaShem now “owes’‘ the donor (lender) he must, perforce fulfill his request. This is correct. We can derive from this the incredible power of Tzedakah which (so to speak) “compels” HaShem through a person’s Tzedakah to grant him for good all that he requests in his prayers.”

                                                                                                                       M’il Tzedakah 1,668






The Unique Nature of Tzedakah

Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY



 The author of M’il Tzedakah states: “There is no greater evil under the sun than a rich person who is miserly. The reason for this is that when a rich man gives Tzedakah the poor person benefits and the rich person suffers no loss. Wealth in the possession of a wealthy man is compared to a well which is dug below the ground water level. Even though the waters pass through the dirt surrounding the well, they never can rise higher than the ground water level. When people draw water from the well, even if they were to draw this water all day long, there is no diminishment in the quantity of water in the well; rather fresh waters continue to fill the well up to the ground water level. Similarly, wealth is given in a fixed amount to a person. Whether a person gives Tzedakah or not, the same amount of wealth is always there... Being so, is there a more wicked person than one who can benefit the poor with his wealth without any loss of that wealth, and nevertheless the miser holds back his hand from benefitting the poor, and thus he loses his World to Come? What can be the penitence for those wealthy misers who withhold their hands from giving Tzedakah?

M’il Tzedakah 1,473







Shulchan Aruch Yore Deah: The Laws of Tzedakah

Translated by Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY


Siman 247 : The Greatness of the Reward for Giving Tzedakah and if (Beis Din) Can

Force a Person to Give Tzedakah


1) It is a positive commandment to give Tzedakah according to one’s means. And there are several places in the Torah wherein we are charged with the positive commandment of giving Tzedakah. There is also a negative commandment not to hide one’s eyes from giving Tzedakah, as it is said: “You shall not harden your heart nor hold back your hand (Deut. 15:7).” And anyone who hides his eyes from giving Tzedakah is called a worthless individual and is considered as if he were an idolater. One must be exceedingly careful regarding Tzedakah for an error in Tzedakah can lead to loss of life, as in an instance where a poor beggar might expire from hunger or thirst if he is not given food immediately, a tragedy that actually occurred in the incident regarding Nachum Ish Gam Zu and a beggar (see Taanis 21a).





2) No person will ever come into a state of poverty as a result of his charitable donations. Neither shall any misfortune or harm befall a person because of his Tzedakah, as Scripture states: “And the act of Tzedakah shall bring peace (Isaiah: 32:17).


3) Anyone who is compassionate towards the poor, the Holy One, Blessed be He, will show compassion to him.


       Addendum Footnote : A person should always be cognizant of the fact that he is always beseeching his own livelihood from the Holy One, Blessed be He. Just as one hopes that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will heed his own petitions, so too, he must hear the cries of the poor. Also a person must constantly remind himself that poverty is a circuit that travels through the world, and it is all too possible that either he or one of his descendants will someday fall victim to poverty. All who have compassion on others, will also receive compassion themselves.


1) The Shulchan Aruch (literally “Set Table”) before us is primarily the work of Rabbi Yosef Caro (know as the Mechaber – Author, par excellence) (1488-1575) along with the “Table Cloth” – the addenda of Rabbi Moshe Isserles (known by his acronym Rama) (@1530-1572). Rabbi Caro represents the Sefardic tradition, while the Rama represents the Ashkenazic tradition. In the classic volumes of Shulchan Aruch, the text of the Mechaber is printed in block script, whereas the text of the Rama’s addenda are printed in a smaller Rashi script. In this translation, the addenda of the Rama will appear in italics.





4) Tzedakah averts evil decrees, and in famine (as well as in other deadly situations – Poskim) it saves from death as in the case of the woman of Tzarfis (Kings 1: Chapter 17).


       Addendum: And the giving of Tzedakah makes one rich. One is forbidden to test the Holy One, Blessed be He, except in this area, as Scripture states: “ And you may test Me in this... (Malachi: 3:10).” However, some authorities maintain that this concept applies only in the area of the tithing of crops, wherein it is permitted to test the Holy One, Blessed be He, but not in other areas of Tzedakah.




                        Siman 248 : Who is Obligated to Give Tzedakah and Who May Receive It


1) Everyone is obligated to give Tzedakah; even a poor man, who himself survives on Tzedakah, is obligated to give from what he receives from others. One who gives less than he should can be compelled by Beis Din and can receive a public lashing as ordained by our Sages of blessed memory, until he gives what he was appraised as capable of giving. The agents of the Court may descend upon his possessions in his presence and may seize from him what he was supposed to give.




2) (Beis Din) can seize and hold property as a guarantee in lieu of one’s failure to pay his assessed Tzedakah, even on Erev Shabbos.


3) We do not assess orphans who are minors with Tzedakah obligations even for the redemption of captives, even if the orphans have much wealth; unless the assessment gives them honor so that they may receive a great reputation.


       Addendum: The above (no assessment of minor orphans) applies only to Tzedakah that is of an unlimited nature, or in the case of minor orphans whose property is limited, and where it is possible to refrain from causing them to give until they reach maturity; for instance, if the orphans own untithed produce which they do not yet need to eat. However, if they need to eat from the produce now, one may tithe for them. The same applies to Tzedakah that is limited. An example of this would be a case wherein the orphans had poor relatives who were receiving an annual stipend from the orphan’s father (before he passed away). Bereft of this stipend, the poor relatives would have to go begging from door to door. This situation would cause embarrassment to the orphans. In such a case, the court-appointed guardian of the orphans may continue to distribute the stipend to the poor relatives.






4)   Communal Tzedakah collectors may only collect small amounts of Tzedakah from women, from slaves [Slaves here refers to what the Talmud calls Canaanite slaves, whose laws only applied in ancient times. These slaves were circumcised and immersed in a Mikveh. They are obligated in Mitzvohs to the same degree as women. A woman’s property generally belonged to her husband and a slave’s possessions belonged to his master. RYG] and from children. However, large amounts may not be accepted from the above, because of a concern with theft. What is a small amount that may be collected from the above? It all depends upon the respective wealth or poverty of the husbands or masters. This all applies in a case where there is no protest from the husband or master. However if there is such a protest, even a small pittance may not be received from the above.


5)   In a case wherein a woman hired a teacher or tutor for her son; if her husband was aware of the arrangement and remained silent in the matter, then we assume that he is definitely in agreement with her actions. However, if he protests as soon as he becomes aware of the arrangement, the arrangement is broken.


Addendum: Even if the wife generally manages the monetary affairs of the house, the husband can still protest to the hiring of a teacher.






Siman 248 : Who is Obligated to Give Tzedakah and Who May Receive It


6)   A person’s (adult) offspring or slave, who eats at his table, may offer a piece of bread to a poor person or to his friend’s child without concern of theft, for this is the acknowledged practice of people.


7)   A person with a lofty spirit who offers Tzedakah in amounts that he cannot really afford, or a person who is in distress and only offers to the communal Tzedakah collectors to avoid embarrassment; it is forbidden for the communal Tzedakah collectors (who are aware of his situation) to collect Tzedakah contributions from him. The Holy One, Blessed be He, will certainly punish in the future a Tzedakah collector who knowingly embarrasses such a person.





Siman 248 : Who is Obligated to Give Tzedakah and Who May Receive It


8)   One who wishes to add to his merits should subdue his evil inclination and open his hand wide (to the poor) and anything that one does for the sake of Heaven should be done in the best and most elegant manner. If one builds a house of prayer, it should be more beautiful than his own home. If one feeds the poor, the food should be from the sweetest and most palatable food from his own table. If one clothes the poor, the clothing should be from the finest clothes of his own wardrobe. If one dedicates an object for holy purposes, the object should come from the finest of his possessions. And thus Scripture states: “All of the fat parts (of a sacrifice) are dedicated to HaShem (Leviticus 3:16).”




Siman 249 : How Much is One Obligated to Give and in What Manner Should He Give It


1)   The amount one should give, if he can afford to, is according to the needs of the poor. If one cannot afford to give to that degree, he should give a fifth of his wealth as that is the most choiceway in which to perform the Mitzvah. One tenth (maaser)is an average person’s way of performing the Mitzvah. An amount less than this indicates a selfish nature. The fifth about which we speak refers to the first year only, where the fifth is taken from one’s total properties.After the first year, the fifth is only taken from each year’s annual profits.


       Addendum: One should not give away more than one fifth of one’s possessions so that he himself should not become a public burden. This applies during one’s lifetime. However, at the time of one’s death, one can give as much Tzedakah as he wishes. One may not use one’s Maaser (tithes) money in order to purchase a Mitzvah, such as purchasing candles for the synagogue or any other Mitzvah, rather the money should be distributed to the poor.




       Siman 249 : How Much is One Obligated to Give and in What Manner Should He Give It


2)   One should never hold oneself back from giving less than a third of a Shekel each year (the Shach [major commentary on Yore Deah] offers several possibilities as to the value of this amount and concludes that according to the then prevailing custom wherein Tzedakah was collected by the Shul Gabbaim every Monday and Thursday, even a donor of small coins would ultimately meet his yearly obligation of Tzedakah . The Orach HaShulchan mentions that this paragraph applies to poor people, who, despite their own poverty, are still obligated to give Tzedakah). If one gives less than this annual amount, he has not fulfilled the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.


3)   One should give Tzedakah (to the poor) with a cheerful countenance, with happiness, and

goodness of heart. One should also commiserate with the poor over the poor man’s troubles and should offer him words of comfort. If a person gives Tzedakah with an angry and bitter countenance he has forfeited the merit of his Tzedakah.




4) If a poor man asked Tzedakah from one who does not have the means to give, the one asked should not scold the poor man or raise his voice at him, rather he should appease him with kind words, and show him that in the goodness of his heart he really would like to give a donation to the poor man, but that he cannot afford to.


       Addendum: It is forbidden to turn away the poor man who asks for Tzedakah empty-handed, even if one can only offer him one dried fig, as Scripture states: “Do not turn away the crushed and humiliated...(Psalms 74:21)”


5) If one can compel others to give to the poor, his reward is greater than that of the actual donors.






Siman 249 : How Much is One Obligated to Give and in What Manner Should He Give It


6)   There are eight levels of Tzedakah, one higher than the other. The greatest level, which is not transcended by any other, is one who strengthens the financial position of one who has fallen into ruin, by giving him an outright grant or a loan; or one who makes him a partner, or who finds him a job in order to strengthen his position so that he need not seek or ask the aid of others. Concerning this it is said: “...and you shall strengthen him(Leviticus: 25:35).”


7)   Below this level is one who gives to the poor without knowing to whom he is giving, and without the recipient knowing who is the benefactor. A close example of this is one who contributes to the communal charity box. One may not give to a communal charity box unless he knows with certainty that the person in charge of distribution is reliable and knows how to distribute funds in a proper fashion.


8)   Below this level is one who knows to whom he is giving without the beneficiary knowing who the donor is. The greatest of the sages used to travel secretly and would leave sizable amounts of money by the doors of the homes of the poor. This is a fitting way in which to behave, especially, if the official distributors of charity are not doing their work in the proper fashion.


9)   Below this level is where the poor person knows from whom the Tzedakah is coming, but the donor is unaware of who is receiving the donation. There were great sages who would wrap coins in cloth packets and when in the vicinity of poor people, would toss them backwards over their shoulders. The poor would come and pick up the packets and would not feel any embarrassment.


10) Below this level is where one gives to the poor without being asked.


11) Below this level is where one gives to the poor in a proper fashion after the poor person asks for Tzedakah.


12) Below this level is where one gives to the poor less than is fitting, but the donation is made in a friendly and encouraging manner.


13) Below this level is where one gives to the poor in a sad (unwilling) manner.


       Addendum: In any event, one may not manifest any pride in his giving of Tzedakah. If one does manifest such pride, it is not merely that he will not receive reward for the Mitzvah, but he may even receive punishment for this pride. However, when one dedicates a holy object, it is permissible for him to inscribe his name upon it, as a memorial, and it is fitting for one to do so.




14) It is a good thing to give a small coin to a poor person before each prayer service, as Scripture states: “Through righteousness (Tzedakah) I will see Your face (Psalms 17:15).”


15) Tzedakah collectors who are in possession of discretionary sums of money should use the money to marry off poor young girls, for there is no greater Tzedakah than this.


16) There is an opinion that donating monies for synagogues is preferable to donating money for the poor. But, donating money for poor young men to study Torah, or donations for the ill are preferable to donating monies for synagogues.


Addendum: The custom to pledge donations during prayers in commemoration of the dead is a very ancient custom and is beneficial in elevating the souls of the deceased.




Siman 250 : How much is Proper to Give to Each Poor Person


1) How much do we give to a poor person – whatever the poor person is lacking. How so? If the poor person is hungry, then we feed him. If he lacks proper clothing, then we clothe him. If he lacks household utensils then we purchase them for him. And even if he was formerly wealthy and was accustomed to ride on a horse with a slave running before him, and then his fortune changed and he became impoverished, we should (if possible) obtain for him a horse and a servant. Similarly, in each individual situation we must try to provide the person with what he specifically needs. One who is accustomed to eating bread receives bread. If one is used to baking his own dough, we supply him with dough. If one is used to sleeping in a bed, we supply him with a bed. If one is accustomed to eating warm bread from the oven, we supply him with such bread. One who is accustomed to cold bread receives cold bread. If one needs to be spoon fed, so he is spoon fed. If a poor person is single, and he wishes to marry, we must help marry him off. But first we help him rent a home with proper bedroom furniture, and necessary utensils, and then we marry him off.


       Addendum: It seems that all this applies to those in charge of communal Tzedakah or to the public in general. However an individual is not obligated to provide all that is stated above on his own. Rather, the poor person must express his distress to the public. If there is no public to turn to, an individual may help him to receive his total needs, if that individual can so afford to do so. 





2) A woman who comes for assistance in order to be wed, should not be given less than three gold pieces (the Shach maintains that these amounts apply to Talmudic times, however, in more modern times, the woman should be given an amount that is suitable for her needs); and if there is money available in the communal funds, the woman should be given an amount due her position.


3) A beggar who goes from door to door (as opposed to going to the communal authorities) may not receive from the communal charities a large donation, rather only a small donation.


4) We do not give to a wandering indigent less than a loaf of bread that is sold for a pundiyon at a time when wheat is sold at 4 seahs for a selah (the Rambam explains that a pundiyon is the weight of 8 barley grains [of silver] – the Shach again maintains that the measures mentioned here applied to Talmudic times, but in our times should be interpreted as an ample amount of food. The commentator on the Mishnah , Rabbi Ovadiah MiBartenura, appraises the size of the loaf as equaling the volume of six eggs [see Mishnah Peah 8:7]). If he needs to stay overnight, we must provide him with a cot and a pillow, as well as oil and legumes. If the poor man needs to stay over for Shabbos, we must provide him with food sufficient for three meals, as well as oil, legumes, fish, and vegetables. If we personally know the poor man, we must give him as befits his dignity.


5) If there are many poor people in a town, and the rich suggest that they go begging from door to door, while the middle-class maintain that they should not go begging but should be provided for from communal funds that are obtained from a proportional tax (based upon wealth), the law is in accordance with the middle-class.


       Addendum: This is because the essence of the obligation of Tzedakah is based upon the wealth of the giver. There are places where communal charities are collected as voluntary donations, and there are places where charities are set as obligatory taxes. One who gives according to the degree with which he has been blessed, will earn even further blessings.






Siman 251 : To Whom Do We Give Tzedakah and Who Comes Before Whom?


1) One is not obligated neither to sustain or lend to a person, who intentionally transgresses any of the Mitzvohs of the Torah, and who has not repented. [There is an important dispute among poskim, as to whether this applies to one who transgresses intentionally for enjoyment, or only to one who transgresses out of open defiance to the rules of the Torah.]


       Addendum: And we provide for the needs of poor non-Jews along with the Jewish poor for the purpose of maintaining peaceful relations. [Here, too, there is a dispute between the Vilna Gaon and the Shach as to whether the Rama means that we may provide aid to the non-Jewish poor in all instances (as Rabbi Caro wrote earlier in Siman 151:19), or only if one is providing aid to the Jewish poor at the same time and therefore the non-Jewish poor would see discrimination and come to hate Jews for not supporting them too.]


2) It is forbidden to redeem a captive who has transgressed even one Mitzvah, out of defiance, e.g. he deliberately ate non-Kosher meat when Kosher meat was readily available at the same price.


       Addendum: But it is not forbidden to redeem a captive who has transgressed a Mitzvah solely for his own enjoyment, if one wishes to redeem him, but one is not obligated to do so. [The Vilna Gaon disagrees here and cites the opinion of Tosafos to tractate Avodah Zorah that one is obligated to redeem, sustain, and lend to one who sins not out of defiance, but out of enjoyment.]






Siman 251 : To Whom Do We Give Tzedakah and Who Comes Before Whom?


3) When one gives financial support to his sons and daughters for whom he is no longer responsible to feed (in Talmudic times above the age of six) in order to teach the sons Torah and the daughters upright behavior; and similarly one who gives gifts (of support) to his needy parents, these monies and gifts are considered to be Tzedakah as long as there is a genuine need for this support. Even more so, one must put the needs of his poor children or parents before the needs of others. Even other relatives who are not his children or parents, must receive aid before other poor people. A paternal half-brother comes before a maternal half-brother. The poor of one’s own household come before the poor of his city. The poor of one’s city come before the poor of other cities [the Shach and Bach derive from this that the poor of one’s own city take precedence even over the poor of Eretz Yisroel. However, the Chida in Birkei Yosef is not certain that this is so.]


            Addendum: Those poor who reside on a regular basis in a city are called the poor of the city. They have precedence over the poor who come to that city from other places.

  The poor of Eretz Yisroel take precedence over the poor of the Diaspora.


            Addendum: One’s own livelihood takes precedence over that of all others. One is not obligated to give Tzedakah until he has a livelihood. At that point in time he should give priority to his father and mother if they are poor. Providing for parents precedes the requirement for providing for one’s own children. Providing for one’s children follows the need to provide for one’s parents, but precedes the need to provide for one’s siblings. Siblings come before other relatives. Other relatives come before one’s neighbors. One’s neighbors come before other people from the same town. The poor of one’s own town come before the poor of other towns. These priorities also apply to the Mitzvah of Redeeming Captives.




Siman 251 : To Whom Do We Give Tzedakah and Who Comes Before Whom?


4) We compel a father to provide for his poor son. Even if the son is an adult, the father can be forced by the Beis Din to provide for his son, to a greater extent than any of the other people of means in that city.


            Addendum: The same applies to other relatives.


5) Once one gives over money to the Tzedakah collectors (Gabbaim) as Tzedakah, neither the donor nor his heirs has any power over the money. The community can do with that money that which is upright in the eyes of G-D and man.


            Addendum: However, if a man pledges money for Tzedakah without specifying its use, and he has not yet given the money to the Gabbaim, he may give that donation to his poor relatives, for we make the assumption that one always prefers to take care of the poor of his own family. This ruling applies only when, at the time of the pledge, the donor had relatives who were in need of assistance. However, if, at the time of the pledge, the relatives were well off, and in the interim they became impoverished, the donor cannot give his pledged donation to them. The above applies to an individual donation. However, if one pledged monies for a communal appeal, then his pledge was made according to the wishes of that community, and the community can utilize the monies as it sees fit.


6) One should make the poor as welcome (and as frequent) in his home as his own family.




7) In terms of priority, we must provide food to someone who is famished, before we clothe one who is bereft of clothing. 


8) If a man and a woman come to ask for food, we first provide for the woman before the man. The same priority applies if they come to ask for clothing. If a male orphan and a female orphan need funds for weddings, we are obligated to first marry off the female orphan





9) If the number of poor who come before us are many, and there are insufficient funds available to provide for, or to clothe, or to redeem all of them from captivity, then the following order of priority applies:

            We attend to the needs of a Kohen before those of a Levi; the needs of a Levi precede those of a Yisroel; the needs of a Yisroel precede those of a Cholol (the result of a relationship between a Kohen and a woman who a Kohen cannot wed such as a divorcee); those of a Cholol precede those of a Shtoki (one who as a child asked his mother who his father is and the mother answered: “Be silent!”); the needs of a Shtoki precede those of an Asufi (as an infant this person was found abandoned in the streets); [the previous two cases are questionable Mamzerim]; the needs of an Asufi precede a Mamzer (the known result of an incestuous or adulterous relationship); a Mamzer precedes a Nisin (descendants of the Gibonites who deceived Joshua and who became servants of the Mishkans and the Beis HaMikdash); the needs of a Nisin precede those of a convert to Judaism; the needs of a convert precede those of a freed non-Jewish slave.

            When does the above order apply? Only in a situation when all of the above are equal in wisdom. However if a Mamzer is a Torah scholar and the High Priest is less learned, the needs of the learned Mamzer take precedence. (Even if the Sage requires only clothing and an ignorant person requires more encompassing survival care, the Sage’s needs come first. The wife of a Chaver (a pious scholar) has the status of a Chaver). Any one who is greater in (Torah) wisdom precedes some one who is not as great. If an individual is confronted with attending to the needs of his Rebbe (who taught him the majority of his Torah learning) or of his father, even though there might be others in need who are greater scholars, the needs of his father and Rebbe who are scholars precede the needs of the greater scholars. [The Shach questions the requirement for one’s father to be a scholar in order for him to take precedence over others who are scholars.]







10) If a stranger comes and says: “Feed me,” we do not investigate to see if he is a fraud. Rather, we must feed him immediately. If he were lacking clothing and said: “Clothe me,” we do investigate to determine if he is a fraud. However, if we recognize him, then we clothe him immediately.


11) [The Talmud in Bava Basra 8a states that] Rebbi (Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi) was distressed when he had to distribute bread to the ignorant. This is because the episode about which the Talmud speaks was during a severe drought when food supplies were limited. What an ignorant person received diminished the food available for distribution to the scholars. Were it not for this reason, one is clearly obligated to provide nourishment to any person. However, in a case when a person who comes before us is seriously malnourished and is in danger of dying, then he must be fed even if the food will not be available to a scholar afterwards.





12) Two poor people, who are still obligated to give Tzedakah, may each give their required Tzedakah donation to the other.


            Addendum: This applies only to actual Tzedakah, however if the two poor people committed some type of violation for which they were fined (by Beis Din) to pay out an amount to Tzedakah, they may not exchange this Tzedakah with each other, for then there would be nothing accomplished by the fine.


13) A congregation which needs to hire a Rav and a Shliach Tzibbur (one who says the communal prayers aloud) and they do not have sufficient funds to pay for both; then, if the Rav is an expert with complete knowledge of questions of daily psak and can also decide juridical matters, his salary comes first. If not, the salary of the Shliach Tzibbur takes precedence.


            Addendum: We may not provide for a communal Rav’s salary from communal Tzedakahs

for this disgraces both the Rav and the community. Rather, the salary must come from some other source. However, any individual may send gifts to the Rav that come from his own Tzedakah obligations, for this is an honorable thing to do. [Jews in late Medieval Europe (the time from which the source of this ruling comes) and later were generally poor and so were the communal Rabbis]. 


14) Communal authorities are permitted to switch allocations of communal funds from even those designated for Torah study purposes, for the payment of the annual 30 pshitim to the local duke or governor [this refers to a time when the local feudal lord or territorial administrator applied a fairly large annual head tax on every single Jew, regardless of individual financial standing]. This is because the payment of this tax on behalf of those who could not pay became a matter of life and death. If the community could not make some acceptable financial arrangement with the ruling authority, there would be many of the poor who could not pay the tax who would be severely beaten and stripped naked.







Siman 252 : The Law of Redemption of Captives and How We Redeem Them


1) The Redemption of Captives takes precedence over providing for and clothing the poor. There is no greater Mitzvah than the Redemption of Captives. Therefore, any monies that have been collected for any other Mitzvah may be expropriated for the purpose of Redeeming Captives; even if such monies were collected for the building of a synagogue. Even if wood and stones had already been purchased for the building of a synagogue and they had been specifically designated to be used for such building, where the Law is that these materials may not sold to expedite any other Mitzvah, they may be sold for the purpose of Redeeming Captives. However, if the synagogue is already built it may not be sold for the Redemption of Captives [There is an argument among later poskim as to whether even a built Synagogue may be sold for the purpose of redeeming captives].


            Addendum: Nevertheless, if a person vowed an amount of money for the purpose of Tzedakah, his intent was not for the Redemption of Captives, and he may not use that money for the Redemption of Captives. However the communal leaders may expropriate this money after its donation for the Redemption of Captives. [Here too there is an argument among the later poskim regarding the initial statement of the Rama.]





2) One who hides his eyes from Redeeming Captives transgresses the following Torah prohibitions: “You shall not harden your heart (Deut. 15:7);” “and do not hold back your hand (ibid);” “Do not stand over the blood of your friend (Levit. 19:16);” and “Do not permit him (an idolater) to rule over him (his Hebrew slave) with rigor before your eyes (Levit. 25:53). He also violates the following positive commandments: “You shall surely open your hand to him (Deut. 15:8);” “and your brother shall live with you (Levit. 25:36);” “And you shall love your friend as yourself (Levit. 19:18).” He also violates the Biblical dictum “Save those who are condemned to death (Proverbs 24:11),” and many more such concepts.


3) The act of delaying the Redemption of Captives, even for a moment, when it is possible to avoid such a delay, is considered tantamount to murder.




4) One may not redeem captives at an excessive price for the benefit of society. For if our enemies could extract enormous sums of money for taking captives, they would make great efforts to capture Jews. However, an individual can pay whatever he wishes in order to ransom himself. We can also pay large amounts in order to redeem a Talmid Chachom, or even one who is not yet a Talmid Chachom, but who has already shown the sharpness and potential to become a great scholar.


            Addendum: If one’s wife is considered to be in the category of someone else [who cannot be ransomed for excessive amounts] or if she is considered like his own self, s HaEzer (the section of Shulchan Aruch dealing with marital law) Siman 78. ee Even


5) One may not aid captives with escape attempts for society’s sake. For we do not wish to cause our enemies to guard other Jewish captives with great oppression and with excessive imprisonment.




6) A person who willingly sold himself to idolaters, or who borrowed money from them and was taken captive after defaulting on the loan – the first two times that these situations take place, we must redeem this person. However, on the third occurrence, we do not redeem him. In such an event, we will redeem his children after his death [The Shach points out that we are concerned that the children should not be assimilated amongst the idolaters. While the father is alive he will look after him. However, if we know that the father is unable to protect his children from assimilating, then, even in his lifetime, we must redeem the children]. If we sense that the idolaters will kill the debtor, then we must redeem him immediately even after many such occurrences.


            Addendum: It is forbidden to redeem a captive who has defiantly violated even one Mitzvah, such as eating improperly slaughtered animals.


7) A Canaanite slave [one who has undergone circumcision and immersion for the purpose of being a slave and who has the status of a woman regarding most Mitzvohs] who has been taken captive, must be redeemed since he has undergone immersion for the purpose of being a slave to a Jew, and has accepted upon himself the obligation of Mitzvohs.




8) We redeem women before men. However, if the captors are known to practice sodomy, then we redeem a man before a woman.


            Addendum: If both the men and women captives will give up their lives, e.g. by drowning themselves, then the redemption of the men takes priority.


9) If a man, his father, and his Rebbe are all taken captive, the man may redeem himself before he redeems his Rebbe, and he redeems his Rebbe [if his father is not a scholar – Shach] before he redeems his father. His mother, however, must be redeemed before all of them [assuming that they are not in mortal danger – Shach].


10) If a man and his wife are taken captive, we redeem the wife before the husband. Beis Din may use the husband’s assets in order to redeem his wife. Even if the husband vehemently protests that he does not wish to use up his assets in order to redeem his wife, we do not listen to him.





11) If a person of sufficient means is taken captive, and he is not willing to use his possessions to redeem himself, we redeem him (by using his possessions) against his will.


12) A father is obligated to redeem his adult son (who has been taken captive), if the father has the means and the son does not.


            Addendum: The above ruling also applies to other relatives. The closer the relationship, the greater is the obligation. No one has the right to protect their own wealth, while placing the needs of their relatives on the community. If a person redeemed someone else with his own money, the redeemed person is obligated to pay his redeemer back if he is capable of doing so. We do not say that the redeemer willingly jeopardized his own money by redeeming the captive. The redeemed captive must (if able) repay his redeemer immediately. The captive is not allowed to say that he is willing to litigate with his redeemer. However, if afterwards he has some legal issues involving his obligations to the redeemer, he may go before Beis Din. If we did not insist upon the immediate repayment, most people would be deterred from redeeming captives at their own monetary peril. 





[In order to understand the first paragraph of the Shulchan Aruch, one must first be familiar with the first two Halachos of the ninth chapter of the Rambam’s Laws of Gifts to the Poor:


a) Any city with a Jewish population is obligated to appoint official Charity Collectors – men who are of good repute and who are known for their honesty. Every Erev Shabbos these men circulate through the Jewish neighborhoods and collect from each family amounts of money that they are capable of donating. These Collectors then use the monies to purchase food which they

distribute to the poor who are residents of the city in amounts that will suffice for each poor person to eat for seven days. This collection and distribution is called the Kupah.


b) A city also appoints Charity Collectors who, on a daily basis, collect from every courtyard

donations of bread, cooked foods, fruits, or money, from anyone whose heart so moves him to give. The collection is distributed to the transient poor in the evening. Every transient poor person is given enough to suffice for the next day. This collection and distribution is what is referred to as the Tamchui.]


1) A poor person (non-resident) who has enough food to suffice him for two meals may not take from the Tamchui. A poor person who is a local resident and who has sufficient food for fourteen meals may not take from the Kupah. If a person has 200 zuz, and he is not using that money for making his living, of if he has 50 zuz and he can provide for a living for his family with that money, he may not take Tzedakah. If a person has slightly less than 200 zuz and he is incapable of doing business with that money, even if one would suddenly give him a thousand zuz in one lump sum for Tzedakah. he is eligible to take it.


            Addendum: One who leaves his home and travels from city to city with a fixed itinerary in order to collect monies, the entirety of that itinerary is considered as one unit of time. Even if he receives 200 zuz in one town, he may continue to collect in the other towns that he planned to visit. Past that point, however, he is forbidden to collect any more.


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  If a person has many possessions, but he has debts to pay off, or if his possessions have liens on them for his wife’s Ketubah, then he is eligible to receive Tzedakah. If a person has a house with furnishings and utensils, but he does not have liquid assets of 200 zuz, then he may take Tzedakah without having to sell his household possessions even if they are of silver or gold. We are speaking here of eating and drinking utensils, as well as clothing, bedding and the like. However, extraneous items such as a silver or gold grater or pestle (or a silver menorah or silver table [Tur]) must be sold before the owner can take Tzedakah. That which we stated above that one does not have to sell his other household possessions before taking Tzedakah, applies only when he is receiving aid from individual donors. However, before he can take from the communal Kupah, we insist that he first sell all of his possessions.


            Addendum: Similarly, in a place where there is a communal ordinance that one may not give Tzedakah to one who has some fixed amount of wealth, we do not take his house and personal possessions into account. It is forbidden to give Tzedakah to the poor children of a wealthy individual as long as they are being supported by their wealthy parent. All this applies to Tzedakah,, however, a poor person can receive a gift or something given in order to show him honor, as the Talmud states (Berachos 10b): “One who wishes to derive benefits from others may do so as did the Prophet Elisha.”




2) And there are those who maintain that the rules stated above in 1) were only applicable in Talmudic times. However, in contemporary times a person may accept Tzedakah until he has enough principle collected from which amount he and his household can receive an adequate income from the annual profits derived from the principle in order to provide for themselves. Their words are filled with reason.


3) A person has land which he must sell in order to provide for his livelihood. If he is forced to sell the land in the rainy season he will sell it at a reduced price, whereas, if he can wait until the dry season he will receive fair value for the land. We do not obligate him to sell in the rainy season. Rather we provide him with tithes for the poor up to half the value of the land so that he will not need to force himself into a sale which is to his disadvantage because of the season.


            Addendum: There are those who maintain that we need only feed him up to the time when he can receive at least half of the real value of his land.


If other sellers can find buyers who will buy their property at a premium, and he can only find buyers who will buy his property at a discounted price because they know he has urgent need to sell the land because of his financial difficulties, then we do not force him to sell. Rather we let him eat the tithes for the poor until he can sell his property at fair value because everyone knows that he is not being forced to sell.





4) A businessman who is traveling from place to place, and while still on his journey his monies are depleted to the point that he is not able to purchase food, may receive from Tzedakah . When he returns home he is not obligated to repay to Tzedakah the funds that he had received while on his journey. (For his case is equivalent to one who was once poor and later became wealthy, who is not obligated to return to Tzedakah the monies that he had received when he was still poor.)


5) A person provided for the welfare of a young orphan with the intention of performing a Mitzvah. Later when the orphan became an adult, the benefactor demanded repayment for the expenditures that he had spent on behalf of the orphan all of those years. The orphan is exempt from any payment.


             Addendum: Even if the orphan had possessions during those years, he is exempt from any payment as long as the benefactor did not openly express that he was providing for the orphan in the form of a loan. This ruling applies only to an orphan. Anyone else, however, who is provided for in this manner without any stipulation is automatically considered to be receiving a loan.




6) If monies were collected for the purpose of providing for the necessities of a specific individual, and the funds that were collected exceeded his needs, the extra funds belong to the person for whom they were collected. If monies were collected for the needs of the unspecified poor, and the monies that were collected were in excessive of their immediate needs, the extra monies are kept by the community for future use for poor people. Similarly, the extra monies that were collected to redeem a specific captive from captivity, belong to that captive. Extra funds that were collected to redeem unspecified captives from captivity are kept by the community to redeem future captives. Another similar situation is where monies were collected for the burial needs of a specific dead person. Any excess funds that were collected belong to his heirs. If monies were collected for the burial needs that were not specified for any individual or individuals, the excessive funds are kept to bury the future dead. In all of the above cases where excess monies that were not specified for a specific person, were left over and the communal leaders felt that those monies were needed for some new immediate urgent concern, they are authorized to use those monies as they see fit.





7) If monies were collected for the purpose or redeeming a specific captive, and that captive died in captivity before he was redeemed, there are authorities who maintain that those collected monies now belong to the heirs of the deceased captive. There are other authorities who maintain that the heirs do not inherit those monies. It is this second opinion that is more reasonable in our times wherein we invoke the principle that the donors never donated that money with the intent that all of it should go to the heirs of the captive without his being redeemed. This same rule applies to a captive who becomes totally assimilated or lost among the idolaters before he is redeemed.


            Addendum: The same concept applies to one who vowed to donate monies to an orphan girl for the purpose of marrying her off. If she dies before she weds, her heirs do not inherit those monies. Nevertheless, as long as she is alive the monies belong to her and they should be given to her immediately, even if no wedding prospects are in sight. If she dies before she weds, then those monies revert back to the donor. One should view the Choshen Mishpat section of Shulchan Aruch (which deals with monetary law) (253:16) where an alternative opinion is cited.




8) If a poor person gives a prutah (small coin) to Tzedakah we accept it from him. If he does not wish to give, we do not obligate him to do so. If new clothes were given to a poor person, and he returned his old clothes to the clothing fund, we accept them from him. If he does not return his old clothes we do not obligate him to do so.


9) If a poor person does not wish to accept Tzedakah, we can trick him and give him the Tzedakah as a gift or as a loan (which we do not intend to collect).


10) We are not obligated to watch out for the welfare of a rich man who treats himself in a miserly fashion, and who is unwilling to depart with his money even for his own needs.




11) We are obligated to provide relief to a Torah scholar in a fashion compatible with the honor that should be bestowed upon him. If a scholar does not wish to receive Tzedakah, we endeavor to provide him with business by selling him merchandise at a reduced price, and by buying that merchandise from him at an inflated price. If the scholar has business acumen, we lend him money with which he can purchase his business needs.


12) If Tzedakah is given to a person who needs the help of his fellow man, and desperately seeks the means with which to provide for his living, no creditor is allowed to collect his debts from the monies given to the poor man as Tzedakah.


            Addendum: The above holds true provided that in the papers that state his financial needs there is no mention of debt. If there is mention that he has creditors, then Tzedakah is given to him with the explicit intent of helping him pay off his debts




Siman 254 : Not to take Tzedakah from Non-Jews


1) It is forbidden for a Jew to take Tzedakah from non-Jews publicly. However, if one cannot sustain himself on the Tzedakah that he receives from the Jewish community, and he is unable to receive charity from non-Jews in private, then it is permissible (for him to receive charity from non-Jews publicly).


2) If a non-Jewish ruler sent money to a Jew as Tzedakah, he may not send it back for it would disturb the peaceful relationship between the Jews and the non-Jewish government. Rather, he accepts the monies and distributes them to non-Jewish poor secretly so that the government does not find out.


            Addendum: There is an opinion that the recipient of those monies must do with them whatever the ruler had commanded him. All of the above applies only if the monies were given for charitable purposes. However, If a non-Jewish ruler donates something for the Synagogue, we must accept the gift. However, if an apostate donates something to the Synagogue we do not accept it.




Siman 255 : The Need to Avoid Taking Tzedakah


1) A person should always endeavor to avoid taking Tzedakah. One should even endure distress rather than become dependent upon the largesse of others. Our Rabbis decreed: “Make your Shabbos like a weekday (regarding the quality and quantity of meals) rather than become dependent upon other human beings (the opinion of Rabbi Akiva – Shabbos 118a).” Even if one were an honored sage who became impoverished, he should practice a trade, even a repulsive one, rather than look to the largesse of other people.


2) Any person who is not really poor, but deceives people into believing that he is for the purpose of receiving Tzedakah, will not die before he actually does become impoverished. On the other hand, one who is in such dire needs that his very existence is jeopardized by his poverty, such as an elderly or sickly person, or one afflicted with great suffering; and yet, out of pride, he adamantly refuses to accept Tzedakah. Such a person is compared to a murderer and is responsible for his own death. All that he will have from his sufferings are sins and iniquities.


However, if a needy individual is not in any danger, and is qualified to receive Tzedakah, but rather than receive Tzedakah he lives a life of great distress, ignoring his ill fortune, and endures great difficulties rather than become a public burden. Such a person will ultimately live to see his fortunes turn and he will provide for the needs of others. Concerning him Scripture states: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the L-rd (Jeremiah 17:7)”




Siman 256 : How the Kupah and Tamchui are Collected and Distributed

[The Mechaber here quotes the exact language of the Rambam that was cited by the translator above in Siman253 (section 28 of the archives).]

 1) Any city with a Jewish population is obligated to appoint official Charity Collectors men who are of good repute and who are known for their honesty. Every Erev Shabbos these men circulate through the Jewish neighborhoods and collect from each family amounts of money that they are capable of donating. These Collectors then use the monies to purchase food which they distribute to the poor who are residents of the city in amounts that will suffice for each poor person to eat for seven days. This collection and distribution is called the Kupah. A city also appoints Charity Collectors who, on a daily basis, collect from every courtyard donations of bread, cooked foods, fruits, or money, from anyone whose heart so moves him to give. This collection is distributed to the transient poor in the evening. Every transient poor person is given enough to suffice for the next day. This collection and distribution is what is referred to as the Tamchui. We have never seen nor heard of any Jewish community which does not have a Kupah of Tzedakah. However, there are places that do not have the institute of Tamchui.

Addendum: Therefore, one who has enough food for seven days may not take from the Kupah, and one who has enough food to last for one day may not take from the Tamchui, as was explained above in Siman253. And the Gabbaim must be trustworthy and wise. They must show great discernment regarding the poor to assure that there is no deception. One may not distribute Tzedakah through any Gabbai who is not trustworthy.




2) On Fast Days we distribute food to the poor. A community whose populace broke their fast at night and went to sleep without having distributed food to the poor, is compared to a community of murderers. The above comparison is only stated in a case wherein the people did not distribute bread and fruits to the poor. However, if they only delayed giving the poor money or raw wheat (which is not ready for immediate consumption at night) they are not compared to murderers.

3) The Kupah is not collected with fewer than two Gabbaim. For there is a principle that we may not impose monetary power over a community with fewer than two officials. However, once the monies are already collected, one individual may be assigned to be the treasurer. Similarly, we can appoint two brothers (who are no worse than one lone individual) to be communal Tzedakah treasurers. The monies may not be distributed with fewer than three trustees, because the distribution of communal Tzedakah monies is considered to be like monetary adjudication which requires three judges; for the situation of each needy person must be dealt with carefully in order to ascertain how much to give to each particular individual. The Tamchui which is only distributed by no fewer than three Gabbaim is also collected by no fewer than three officials, for the Tamchui is not a fixed assessment (it is collected daily and varies with the amount of transient poor), but rather the collectors must determine and adjudicate what are the respective capabilities of each individual donor to give.






4) The Tamchui is collected daily and the Kupah is collected every Erev Shabbos. The Tamchui is for the transient poor who are not residents of that city, whereas the Kupah is collected only for the poor of that city. The residents of a city have the authority to exchange the monies collected for the Kupah for the Tamchui and to exchange the foods collected for the Tamchui for the Kupah. They also have the authority to use these foods or monies for any communal need, [even of a fixed secular nature – Shach], even though no such stipulation was made at the time of collection. If there is an outstanding Sage in that province, by whose authority all Tzedakah collections are made, and who oversees to whom the Tzedakah is given and how much the particular individuals receive, then, he too has the power to utilize the monies for other communal needs.

            Addendum: The same concept applies to a Gabbai who is appointed by the city. This also applies even when an individual who has vowed to give Tzedakah has given monies to the

Gabbai. However, if an individual has appointed his own agents to distribute his Tzedakah, then the city residents have no authority to utilize that individuals Tzedakah for other uses, for his vow was not made with this in mind. Similarly, if when a person gave Tzedakah monies to the communal authorities and he stipulated that these monies are to be utilized for the poor of the city or for a particular poor individual, the Gabbaim do not have the right to utilize those monies for anything else, not even Talmud Torah.

            If the residents of a city appointed specific Gabbaim, and, for whatever reason, the appointments could not be maintained and Tzedakah monies were still in the possession of any of those Gabbaim; if that Gabbai originally had the authority to utilize those monies for any communal purpose, then he may still do so. However, if the Gabbaim had to consult with the city authorities before utilizing the monies for other purposes, then they must continue to do so now. If, in the latter case, it is now impossible for a Gabbai to contact the communal authorities, or if the communal authorities are not capable of coming to an agreement as to how to proceed, then the Gabbai may utilize the monies as he sees fit, provided that they are used for the performance of a Mitzvah.



5) A newcomer who has resided in a province for thirty days is compelled to give Tzedakah for the Kupah along with all other residents of that province. After residing there for three months he is compelled to give Tzedakah for the Tamchui. After residing there for six months he is compelled to give Tzedakah for the clothing collections whereby the city provides clothing for its poor. After residing there for nine months he is compelled to give Tzedakah for burial funds whereby they bury the poor and provide for all of the necessities of burial. All this applies only to a situation where the newcomer has not come to reside in that area on a permanent basis. If one moves into a new province or city in order to dwell there permanently, then he is compelled to give to all of the above immediately.

             Addendum: Similarly, the residents of a brand new town must compel each other immediately to give to all of the above causes. There are those who maintain that in our times, a newcomer, after only thirty days, automatically receives the status of permanent resident, who is compelled to give to all of the above.




6) A merchant who brought merchandise to a city in which he does not reside, and was assessed by the authorities of that community to give Tzedakah there, that merchant gives that Tzedakah to the poor of that city. If there were a band of merchants visiting a city and they were assessed to give Tzedakah there, they must deposit that Tzedakah with the communal authorities. However, when they leave that city, they may take that Tzedakah with them and upon their return to their own city, they must use that Tzedakah to provide for the needs of the poor of their own city. [The Taz explains as follows: “The reason for this distinction between an individual merchant and a group of merchants is that an individual is drawn after the town to which he comes. A large group, however, has the status of an independent congregation, even when in a different city. However, to avoid any suspicion of wrongdoing, they must first deposit the Tzedakah money with the authorities of the town in which they are doing business.]

            Addendum: The reason why the band of merchants must first deposit the money is to avoid any suspicion. When they leave they take those Tzedakah monies with them and bring them back to their own city for distribution to the poor there. The above only applies to Tzedakah of a type which is unique to the city which they are visiting. Hence, there are grounds for suspicion that they will not give such Tzedakah in their own city if they do not deposit it first with the city officials. But if that type of Tzedakah is also collected in their own city, the merchants need not make any deposit, for it is certain that they will give that same Tzedakah in their own city. If a merchant has borrowed money for which he has entered into a partnership in which the lender-partner receives half of the profits, or via some other arrangement; if Maaser (Tzedakah) is taken from the profits, the borrower-partner must give his partner his full profits including the Maaser, and the lender-partner may distribute the Tzedakah to whom he sees fit, unless there is a pre-existing city statute that requires any merchant to give to Tzedakah a percentage of all of his profits even if this includes profits belonging to a lender-partner.

    (In the above situations in which monies must be distributed to the poor upon the return of merchants to their city) if there is a distinguished scholar in their community who deals in dispersing Tzedakah monies, the merchants may give their Tzedakah monies to this scholar and he may disperse them as he sees fit.




Siman 257 : The Order of Collecting Tzedakah and the Necessity not to Delay the Collection


1) The Tzedakah collectors are not permitted to completely separate one from the other in the market place. They must be able to see each other as one enters a gate and the other enters a store to make their collections. If a collector finds money on the street, he may not put those monies into his own purse, rather they must be placed in the Tzedakah collection box. However, when he arrives at his home he may take those monies that he found for himself. Similarly if someone owed a Tzedakah collector a debt and he repaid him in the street, the collector may not put those monies into his own purse, rather he must place them in the Tzedakah collection box. Again, when he returns home, he may remove the monies that belong to him. Also when a Tzedakah collector counts the Tzedakah monies, he may not count them by twos for the reason of averting any suspicion [Shach: so that no one suspects him of taking one from each pair for himself], as Scripture states: “And you shall be guiltless both from (the perspective of) HaShem and Israel (Numbers 32:22).”




2) Tzedakah collectors who do not have any poor people to distribute to may exchange the small coins for larger coins, making change for others but not for themselves. Similarly, if they need to sell the remains of the food in the Tamchui, they may sell to others but not to themselves so as not to cast any aspersions on their integrity. We do not audit the charities collected by Tzedakah collectors nor do we audit (in the times of the Temple) Hekdash (monies donated to the Temple) that is given to the Temple treasurers, as Scripture states: “And they shall not audit the men through whom they shall distribute the monies to the laborers, for they conduct themselves with honesty (Kings II 12:16).”

            Addendum: Nevertheless, in order to be innocent both in the eyes of G-D and man, it is good that the Tzedakah collectors conduct an audit. All the above applies to collectors who are know to conduct themselves properly. However an improper individual or one who was appointed through force or political power must, in all instances, be audited. The same principle applies to all public officials. If the public wishes they may discharge a Tzedakah collector from his duties and appoint another in his place. This will in no way cast aspersions of guilt upon the Tzedakah collector. The same principle applies to all public officials.




3) Tzedakah is considered to be in the realm of “vows.” Therefore if one states “It is upon me (to give a) a selah to Tzedakah” or “Behold this selah is for Tzedakah,” he must give that amount or (in the second case) that coin to the poor immediately. If he delays to do so he violates the Torah commandment of “Do not delay (Deut. 23:22),” for it is in his capabilities to fulfill his vow immediately by giving Tzedakah to the poor, as there are always poor people to be readily found. If there are no poor people to whom to give, then the person who made this vow must separate the amount or the coin (in the second case) and leave the monies until he can give them as Tzedakah to the poor.

            Addendum: All this applies to monies that the donor has in his hands to distribute on his own. But, if one responded to a Tzedakah appeal in Shul wherein the monies are to be given to the official Tzedakah Collectors, or the monies are meant for some other purpose where they must be handed over to an official, the donor does not violate the Commandment of “Do not delay (Deut. 23:22),” even if there are poor to be readily found. However, if poor people are readily available, as soon as the Tzedakah Collectors demand of him to pay his pledge, since they wish to distribute the monies to the poor immediately, and then he delays, he violates the Commandment. If the person vowed quietly, so that the Tzedakah Collectors are not aware of his vow, he must inform them so that they may be able to demand of him to pay when they are ready to distribute the collection monies. The term “the poor are to be readily found” only applies when the distribution will be made immediately for the sake of the poor. However, if it is not the custom to distribute communal pledges immediately, then the term “the poor are to be readily found” does not apply. If a person made a vow to give a certain amount of Tzedakah to a specific individual, he does not transgress the Commandment until that individual is available, even if there are other poor people who are readily available to give to.

            All the above applies when a person vows to give Tzedakah without any stipulations. However, everyone is allowed to set aside personal monies for Tzedakah which one keeps available to distribute little by little, as one sees fit. Similarly, if a person stipulated at that time that he made his pledge that the Tzedakah Collectors may utilize the Tzedakah for causes other than for which the appeal was made, or if they wish to convert the (gold) coins into gold bullion, the Collectors are permitted to do so.

4) A person must always be careful not to make a vow. If people are donating Tzedakah and he is joining with them, he should say “This is not a vow.”




5) If the purse of Tzedakah is lacking sufficient funds for the poor, it is incumbent upon a Tzedakah Collector to lend his own money to the purse. When the purse is eventually replenished, the Tzedakah Collector may repay himself from the purse without asking permission from the donors to the Tzedakah purse.

            Addendum: If one is separating his tithes for Tzedakah and he had previously lent monies to a poor person with the stipulation of being repaid from the Tzedakah tithes which he would have given to that poor person in the future; he may subtract from his tithes that loan (viewing that as the repayment of the loan). This applies only if the poor person to whom he had given the loan is still alive. However, if that poor person had, in the interim, passed away, or if he had since become wealthy (in which case he is not entitled to receive monies from tithes) the estate of the deceased poor man [see the Degel M’revavah who makes a possible distinction between wealthy heirs and poor heirs], or the newly wealthy man, himself, need not pay back the loan, because the now wealthy man was a poor person at the time the loan with its stipulation was made, and one may not separate current tithes as repayment for that which is now lost [the loan was made with the stipulation of repayment from future tithes and that is no longer applicable]. If the donor has lost contact with the poor man, he may repay himself from the tithes, and he need not be concerned that the poor man has [either died] or become wealthy in the interim, unless he knows with certainty otherwise.




6) A Tzedakah Collector who states, while he is in office, that he has lent a specific sum to the communal Tzedakah purse, is believed without any need to take an oath. However, if he first makes this statement after he has been removed from his job, he must take an oath.

7) If a Tzedakah Collector is reviled and abused by the poor, he should not take heed, for as a result of his being mistreated he will gain more reward (in the World to Come).

8) The Tzedakah Collectors of a city are not responsible to provide for the needs of a poor man who has wealthy relatives who are capable of providing for his needs, even though those relatives also contribute to the communal Tzedakah purse.

9) One may not give all of his Tzedakah monies to only one poor person [Shach: or to only one of his poor relatives].




10) One who distributes Tzedakah must be careful not to distribute more to his own relatives than to other people.

            Addendum: The above applies only to an official Tzedakah Collector. However, everyone else is permitted to give his Tzedakah or his tithes, to whomever he wishes to among his needy relatives. Indeed, his needy relatives take precedence as was explained above in Siman 251.

11) A man has designated monies whose future profits, that are accrued through business investments, are to be set aside for Torah distribution. In the situation in which this man has deposited these funds in the care of his wife, with the proviso that she can distribute the profits to whomever she wishes; the wife may not turn over the care of these funds into the hands of anyone else, even if that person is of the stature of Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon [see Tractate Avodah Zorah 18a, wherein Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon who was a Tzedakah Collector utilized his own monies in order to make the proper donations for the poor on Purim and never took repayment. Thus, Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon became the paradigm for the perfect Tzedakah Collector. Rav Henkin zt"l the most famous Director of Ezras Torah was often compared by other Gedolim to Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon]. However, if the donor of these monies deposited them with a chief Sage of the city, the Sage may, in turn, deposit these monies with his wife [according to the Shach in his critique on the Taz called the Nekudos HaKesef, this Sage may leave these monies in the care of whomever he deems fit. The Taz maintains that only if the donor stipulated that the Sage may do with the principal as he deems fit, may he leave those monies with another].




Siman 258 : One Who Uses the Power of Comparison (When Making Vows) Concerning Tzedakah

1) One who uses comparison in making vows concerning Tzedakah is like one who uses comparison in a regular vow. [The usual case of comparison when making a regular vow is when one compares a secular object to a consecrated object in its relationship to himself. For instance, one who wishes to forbid a house upon himself says "Behold this house is (forbidden) like a Korban to me." RYG] How so? If there was a coin that was already consecrated to Tzedakah laying before him and he says in reference to another coin which is still secular in nature, "This latter coin is like this coin (the coin of Tzedakah), the second coin is now consecrated as Tzedakah.

            Addendum: A person should not say, "This coin is for Hekdash (dedicated to the Holy Temple), but rather, he should say, "This coin is Tzedakah.” However, if a person did say “for Hekdash” we interpret his statement to mean that the coin is now consecrated as Tzedakah for the needy. However, if the person maintained that he did, indeed, mean for Hekdash, He may then have no benefit or pleasure from the coin. Rather he must ask the advice of a Sage and undergo the process of “Relinquishment of Vows,” using the means of regret in order to release the vow, as we do in the case of other vows which may be relinquished.

2) A person separated a coin and declared that it is Tzedakah. He then said concerning another coin, “And this!” The second coin is also Tzedakah.

            Addendum: If a person meant to consecrate coin A and accidently made the declaration over another coin (coin B) which he did not intend to consecrate, this is considered to be a mere error, and coin B is not consecrated. [However coin A is consecrated; unless his intent was to consecrate coin A with a specific declaration over it, in which case neither coin is consecrated – Shach].



3) One who vowed to give (a specific amount to Tzedakah), and later did not recall the amount that he had vowed, must give large amounts to Tzedakah up to the point at which he says: “I am certain that I never intended to give so much.” [The Pischei Teshuvah quotes a very interesting responsum of the Chasam Sofer, zt”l, which deals with a person who vowed to give to a specific Tzedakah. In the city within which he lived there were a variety of Tzedakohs – campaigns for the poor, for Torah study, for the burial of the dead, for caring for the sick, etc. The donor forgot to which of these Tzedakohs he had made his vow. The Chasam Sofer ruled that he must give to all of the Tzedakohs in that city in order to be certain that he has fulfilled his vow.]

4) A person states to his attendants, give (on my behalf) a hundred zuz or a Sefer Torah to the Beis HaKnesses, they give the donation to the Beis HaKnesses to which he is most accustomed to attend, in the city within which he lives.

            Addendum: If the person attended two Shuls with equal regularity, then the donations must be made to both. If a person told his attendants to give oil for the candles, the oil is to be given to the Beis HaKnesses and not to the Beis HaMedrash.




5) If one states: “Give one hundred zuz to the poor,” that money must be distributed to the poor of the city in which he resides. [The Shach points out that if the person made this statement while he was away from his city of residence, the monies should, nevertheless, be brought to the poor of the city where he resides.]

            Addendum: See above Siman 251 Paragraph 5. All of the above applies only in situations wherein no specific intent was mentioned or could be deduced. However, in situations in which we know that the donor did not have in mind to give solely to the poor of his city; for instance in communities where it is customary for wealthy individuals to donate to many different Tzedakohs prior to their deaths, and those monies are distributed to all poor petitioners (regardless of where they live), we must follow this practice. Even if a donor made a vow to Tzedakah in general, we follow the prevailing custom of distribution. Thus, the heirs may distribute the allotted Tzedakohs to all poor people who are worthy in their eyes, even if they reside in other cities. Even if those Tzedakah funds were already placed in the care of a guardian, the guardian must deliver those funds over to the heirs and he must inform them of the nature of the vow made by the deceased.

            If a person fined himself a certain amount to give a specific amount to Tzedakah in the event that he would violate some prohibition [e.g. speaking Loshon Harah] and he did violate the prohibition, hence incurring the self-imposed fine, those Tzedakah monies must be distributed solely to the poor of that specific city, and the donor may not request that they be given to the poor of another city. If the Tzedakah Collectors are aware of the fine and its violation, they have the right to demand in Beis Din the payment of those monies, for they are viewed as having the right to demand collection of those monies on behalf of the poor. However, if one dedicated large sums of money to Tzedakah, and he appointed his own heirs as guardians over those monies to distribute them as seems proper in their eyes, even to the poor of other cities; the Tzedakah Collectors have no power to demand collection of those monies in Beis Din on behalf of the poor. Nor can they coerce the heirs in any way to distribute those monies. Even if the heirs openly violate their charge and thus steal these monies from the poor, no one has the right to demand the collection of these funds on behalf of the poor, since the heirs where given the power to distribute the monies to whomever they saw fit. Even if there were two appointed guardians, and one of them died, the communal leaders have no right to appoint a replacement for the guardian who died. Rather, the remaining guardian may distribute the monies as he sees fit as was the intention of the deceased donor. Even in the case of communal Tzedakah funds, no one, who may deem the funds to be mismanaged, has the right to demand control of those funds on behalf of the poor, unless he has a contract of authorization from the official Tzedakah Collectors or from the Communal leaders.

            If a person dedicated a specific sum of money to Tzedakah, and he lacks the ability to pay, then Beis Din must set up payment arrangements for him as in the case of any other debtor




6) One who makes a vow to give to Tzedakah may not renege on this vow, unless he undergoes the process of “Nullification of Vows.” However, if the vowed monies were already in the hands of the Tzedakah Collector, the vow may not be annulled. [The Pischei Teshuvah cites a responsum of the Radvaz who states that sages who annul a vow made to Tzedakah, are deserving of being excommunicated for they are depriving the poor of income. However, the nullification is valid.]

7) A person may not consecrate a physical object that is not currently in his possession. For instance, if one had deposited an object with a guardian (without witnesses), and the guardian is now disputing the rightful ownership of that object, the true owner may not consecrate that object. However, if there is no dispute over the rightful ownership of the object, even though it is in the physical possession of the guardian, it is viewed legally as being in the possession of the owner and it may be consecrated. The above applies only to movable possessions. However, regarding lands which had been stolen, and the thief claims that he is the owner; if it is possible for the rightful owner to regain control of those lands through the Beis Din, then he may consecrate them, even if he has not yet regained control of those lands. Because legally land (which is permanent and unmovable) is still in the possession of the rightful owner. If one steals an object from its owner, and the owner has not despaired of regaining control of the object, then neither the thief or the owner may consecrate the object; the thief (may not) because it does not belong to him, and the rightful owner (may not) because it is not under his control. This same principle applies to all such similar situations.

   Addendum: If a borrower gave over an object, equal or greater in value to the loan, as a guarantee to his creditor, then he may not consecrate that object. However, the value of the object that exceeds the loan may be consecrated. There are those who rule that the borrower is unable to consecrate even the value in excess of the loan.

                       If a creditor wishes to consecrate a Shtar Chov – the debtor’s contract of indebtedness (in this way the debt becomes due to Tzedakah) – he must follow the normal rules of sale or gifts of contracts, which involves the writing of another piece of paper describing the sale or gift and the handing over of both the original contract and the new written declaration over to Tzedakah.




8) If a person had a loan due to him from a borrower, and he says: “Let it be consecrated” or “Let it be for Tzedakah,” his words are meaningless. However, if he says, ‘The debt that is due me from so-and-so, when I will receive it in my hands, I will then consecrate it or give to Tzedakah,” he is obligated to fulfill his vow and to consecrate it or give it to Tzedakah when it comes into his hands. And even in the first case where he said “The debt that is due me should be consecrated or should be given to Tzedakah, if he made this statement in front of the debtor and the Tzedakah Collector, or before the debtor and the Communal Leaders (or before a very important scholar of that town), the Tzedakah Collector is now in possession of that debt because of the unique means of acquisition involving debts or deposits know as Maamad Shloshton – in the presence of all three (the giver, the recipient, and the person who is now holding the monies e.g. a debtor or guardian). The donor may not renege nor may he change the nature of his gift, because it is viewed as already legally being in the hands of the Tzedakah Collector.

9) A person struck another, in which situation, the assailant is obligated by the communal statutes to pay as a fine five golden coins. The victim then stated in front of the Tzedakah Collector or the Communal Leaders, “I have no desire to receive this fine – let it go to Tzedakah.” Afterwards, the assailant made peace with the victim to the point where he forgave the obligation of the fine; this act of forgiveness is meaningless, for it is as if the poor have already received the fine (and it must be paid to them).




10) A person made a vow to Tzedakah with a type of stipulation that is referred to as an Asmachta [the definition and laws of Asmachta are complex and involve several distinctly different approaches by the Rishonim. The approach that the Mechaber is taking here is that the person is making a stipulation which he is certain that he will not violate and therefore he thinks that he will not come into the obligation to give this amount to Tzedakah. In most secular matters a purchase or wager involving such a stipulation is not valid. The insight here is that Tzedakah is different and the stipulation is valid RYG]. For example if he declared: “If I do such and such an action I will give a certain sum to Tzedakah and he did do that action, he is obligated to give the amount to Tzedakah [even though he was certain at the time that he made the statement that he would not come to do that action RYG].

11) A husband and wife accepted upon themselves publicly, severe financial punishments which would go to Tzedakah, in order to force each other to, respectively, give and receive a Get – document of divorce. Then they reconciled prior to the divorce. There is an opinion [It is often the practice of the Mechaber to bring down a law that has its source in only one authority in the language of, “There is an opinion” even though there is no contradictory opinion RYG] that states that they are now completely exempt from those financial punishments (and this ruling applies in all similar cases, where two people forgive each other of such self-imposed financial punishments).

12) If a person simply stated that he would give a gift to his friend. If that friend is a poor man, that statement becomes the equivalent of a vow to give Tzedakah, and he is forbidden to renege.




13) A person stated that he is donating a specific object to Tzedakah and declared its value to be such and such. If the donor discovered that the object was worth more than he thought at the time of his statement, he may not renege (for regarding any statement that benefits Tzedakah, we cite the rule that a statement made to the Most High [such as any statement of donation to Tzedakah or Hekdash] is regarded as binding as the physical act of handing over a gift or object of sale to a human being). However, if at the time of his statement, the object was worth the value that he had stated, and only afterwards, before he has delivered it over to Tzedakah the object appreciated in value, he may replace the object with the original value that he had stated, since he has not yet made any physical acquisition to Tzedakah [the Shach explains that in the latter case, since there was no additional profit to Tzedakah at the time of his statement, the donor only owes the value that he had stated].

  Addendum: If a person merely thought in his mind to make a certain donation to Tzedakah, he is obligated to fulfill his thoughts without any verbal declaration. The only need for a verbal declaration is to enable the Tzedakah Collectors to force him to make his declared donation. There is another opinion that states that mere thought has no binding validity at all. However, the first opinion is the essential one.



Siman 259: One Who Made a Vow to Tzedakah and No Longer Knows What He had Vowed. The Law Regarding Verbal Pledges Made to the Most High (Also the Law Regarding if One May Change the use of Tzedakohs. Also the rules of Conduct for a Tzedakah Collector or of One who is Appointed over a Tzedakah).

1) A person declared: “This Selah is for Tzedakah” or: “It is upon me (to give a Selah to Tzedakah), and he separated the Selah for Tzedakah. If after separating the coin for Tzedakah, he had not yet given it over to the Tzedakah Collector, he may change its designated use, i.e. he may borrow it for his own use, or he may lend it to another and that borrower will repay the coin to the Tzedakah Collector.

 Addendum: Similarly, if the person had consecrated vessels for Tzedakah, he may sell them in the presence of three expert appraisers, and then donate those funds to Tzedakah [the Pischai Teshuvah cites the Responsa of the Beis Ephraim who points out that the source of this Rama is the Rishon known as the Mordechai who permits the sale of the vessels in this case only for the sake of a Mitzvah].

  Once the funds have come into the hands of the Tzedakah Collector, it is forbidden to lend out those funds, whether to himself, whether to another, whether to the Tzedakah Collector. However, if it benefits the poor that these funds be available for the Tzedakah Collector to lend out in order to be able to impel others to give [the Tzedakah Collector will honestly claim that he has no available funds (since he lent out these funds)], the Tzedakah Collector has the authority to lend out the funds and later repay them to Tzedakah.

 Addendum: The reason why Tzedakah funds may be lent out, is because Tzedakah funds    are not like Hekdash – funds consecrated to the Holy Temple – and therefore one may derive pleasure or usage from them before they are given to the poor. One may not do business with monies that are intended for distribution to the poor, with the exception of making change with those monies for a fee, or similar types of transactions. The reason for the prohibition is that since the monies are ready for distribution, we are afraid that the poor will come and ask for those monies, and they will not be available to them because of their use in a business transaction that has not yet been consummated. However, Tzedakah that is not intended for distribution to the poor such as a special fund whose principle is meant to be perpetual, but the interest or other accrued monies derived from the principle are distributed to the poor; that principle may be used for [safe] business transactions. Indeed, this is the prevailing custom.




2). If Tzedakah collections that were designated to be utilized for the needs of the Beis HaKnesses or for the needs of the community cemetery, the communal leaders may re-designate those monies for the needs of the Beis HaMedrash or for the strengthening of Torah study, even over the objections of the donors. But monies designated for Torah study may not be used for the needs of the Beis HaKnesses.

 Addendum: The above statement applies only in an instance where it is not certain that there will be sufficient funding to maintain Torah study. However, in a city whose inhabitants provide adequately for the study of Torah, and if collected funds were to be redirected for the needs of the Beis HaKnesses, replacement funds would be collected for the study of Torah, when required, then it is permissible to divert funds collected for the study of Torah to be utilized for the needs of the Beis HaKnesses.

   Even in a community wherein re-designation of funds would be prohibited, if there is not immediate need for the item that was donated; for instance if a person donated property for the express purpose of building a Beis HaMedrash, and the city is incapable of building the Beis HaMedrash immediately, the donor may not renege on his donation. Rather, the property remains in the possession of the city until the inhabitants are able to build the Beis HaMedrash. All this applies only in a city where the Minhag – custom – of the city in these areas is not known. However, in a city whose custom is that the Tzedakah Collectors or the inhabitants of the city have the right to change collected funds for any purpose that they deem fit, or in a city wherein there is a custom that people leave objects in a Synagogue for communal use such as a Sefer Torah or ornamental vessels of silver, and whenever they wish, the owners may take back the objects, or if they becomes impoverished they may sell them for their needs; we always follow the custom – for all who donate, donate according to the prevailing customs, and the heart of Beis Din so stipulates, provided that there is a fixed custom. Nevertheless, if a donor explicitly stipulated that his donation may not be used for any other purpose than that for which he donated, and that no one should have any power to change the designated purpose of his donation, then, it is obvious that no change may be made to that donation (see above 256:4).




3) If a Jew donated a candlestick or a menorah to the Beis HaKnesses and eventually the congregants forgot who had donated that object, for the object is no longer referred to by the name of the donor [such as the Cohen or Schwartz Menorah], the public has the right to change the usage of the object even going so far as to use it for secular purposes (even over the objections of the donor). If the names of the donors are still connected to the objects, then the public made not utilize the donations for secular purposes, however, they may utilize the objects for the sake of other Mitzvohs. If the donor of the object to the Beis HaKnesses was a non-Jew, it is forbidden to change its use even for the sake of other Mitzvohs, as long as the name of that non-Jew is associated with the object [e.g. it is still referred to as the Donnely Menorah]. (As long as the donor’s name is engraved on the object that he had donated [or if there is a plaque] then this is deemed as a case where the donor’s name is not forgotten).

4) If a non-Jew has donated an object to the Beis HaKnesses, such as a menorah or some other item, we accept it from him as long as he acknowledged that his designation of that object was in accord with the tenets of the Jewish religion. If he did not so stipulate, the object requires burial [the Taz offers two explanations for this: 1) Perhaps his donation was made with idolatrous intent; or 2) perhaps his intent was pure, but he had in his mind that he was offering a sacrifice].




5) If one has monies in his possession concerning which he is not certain if they belong to Tzedakah or not, he is obligated to give them to Tzedakah.

  Addendum: However, if a person used a language concerning monies, which might be construed as applying to a donation to Tzedakah, and he died before his intent was made clear, the heirs are considered to be in possession of those monies. It is up to the representatives of Tzedakah to bring a proof that those monies were, indeed, intended for Tzedakah. As long as no such proof is brought, the monies remain in possession of the heirs.

6) A community may not demand the payment of taxes or fees from monies that a person had dedicated to Tzedakah.

  Addendum: If one found in one of his chests monies in a box upon which was written the word “Tzedakah,” he must rely upon the writing and, hence, those monies must be given to Tzedakah. Similarly if one declared to his heirs that certain specific monies had been designated for Tzedakah, if it seemed to the heirs that their father was giving over a testamentary command, his words are valid. However, if he said these words as a mere strategy to prevent his heirs from seizing his possessions, or in order to convince them that he is not wealthy, then his words have no validity. If someone appeared to an heir in a dream and told the heir where certain monies belonging to the deceased are to be found, and that these monies belong to Tzedakah, the latter words have no validity, for statements heard in a dream have no Halachic standing [even though the monies are found in that location]. However, if another person told an heir that monies in a certain location, of which the heir was unaware, were dedicated to Tzedakah, if that other person was capable of accessing those monies himself and giving them to Tzedakah, then he is believed because he himself had the ability to give those monies to Tzedakah. However, if that other person could not have accessed those monies, then he is not believed and the monies remain in the possession of the heir.

  A person used a chest for consecrated funds and immediately afterwards for secular funds. Later he found some monies in the chest and he is not certain whether they were consecrated monies or secular monies. In such a case we go after the latter usage, which in this case was secular. If he used the chest for both consecrated and secular monies at the same time, and later found unidentified monies in the chest, we go after the majority usage [if the majority of the monies in the chest were secular, then these too are secular, and vice versa]. If the monies were not put in a chest, but into a deep pit, where one can assume that the monies might have been laying there for some time without being found, even if the pit was first used for storing consecrated funds and immediately afterwards, secular funds, we go after the majority usage [and not after the last usage].