When to Give, What to Give, How to Give

A Selection from My Favorite Jewish Sources
Rabbi Mordechai Levin

Rabbi Chayim of Sanz,Darkai Chayim, p. 137
The merit of tzedakah (charity) is so great that I am happy to give to 100 beggars even if only one might actually be needy. Some people, however, act as if they are exempt from giving charity to 100 beggars in the event that one might be a fraud.

Rabbi Shmelke of Nicholsburg
When a poor man asks you for aid, do not use his faults as an excuse for not helping him. For then God will look for your offenses, and He is sure to find many of them. Keep in mind that the poor man’s transgressions have been atoned for by his poverty while yours still remain with you.

Talmud, Gittin 7b
Even a poor man, a subject of charity, should give charity.

Talmud, Ketubot 68a
Rabbi Joshua ben Korkha said, “Anyone who shuts his eye against charity is like one who worships idols.”

Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor 7:2
If one noticed a poor man asking for something and ignored him, and failed to give tzedakah, he has broken a prohibitive command, as it is written: Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy brother. (Deut. 17:7)

Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor 10:5
If a poor man requests money from you and you have nothing to give him, speak to him consolingly.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, 249:3-5
If the poor man stretches out his hand and he has nothing to give him, he should not scold and raise his voice to him, but he should speak gently to him and show him his goodness of heart; namely that he wishes to give him something but cannot.

Vayikra Rabbah 34:7
If a rich man says to a poor man, “Why don’t you go out and work at a job? Look at those thighs! Look at those legs! Look at that belly! Look at that brawn!, God will then say to the rich man, “Is it not enough for you that you gave him nothing of yours? Must you also begrudge what I gave him?”

Talmud, Sukkah 49b
Rabbi Eleazar stated, The reward of charity depends entirely upon the extent of kindness in it.

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Rabbi Levin is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Munster, IN. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, and is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly. In 2010, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City for his years of dedicated service to the Conservative movement and the Jewish community...Full bio