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Do You Get Charity?

Do You Get Charity?

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Excerpted from an article, Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness, that appeared in the journal Science this past month:

A large body of research has demonstrated that income has a reliable, but surprisingly weak, effect on happiness within nations, particularly once basic needs are met. Indeed, although real incomes have surged dramatically in recent decades, happiness levels have remained largely flat within developed countries across time. One of the most intriguing explanations for this counterintuitive finding is that people often pour their increased wealth into pursuits that provide little in the way of lasting happiness, such as purchasing costly consumer goods.

We suggest that investing income in others rather than oneself may have measurable benefits for one's own happiness.

As an initial test of the relation between spending choices and happiness, we asked a nationally representative sample of 632 Americans (55% female) to rate their general happiness, to report their annual income, and to estimate how much they spent in a typical month on (i) bills and expenses, (ii) gifts for themselves, (iii) gifts for others, and (iv) donations to charity. The first two categories were summed to create an index of personal spending, and the latter two categories were summed to create an index of pro-social spending. Entering the personal and pro-social spending indices simultaneously into a regression predicting general happiness revealed that personal spending was unrelated to happiness, but higher pro-social spending was associated with significantly greater happiness.

If this interpretation is correct, then people who receive an economic windfall should experience greater happiness after receiving the windfall if they spend it on others rather than themselves. We tested this prediction by examining the happiness of 16 employees before and after they received a profit-sharing bonus from their company. [The] employees who devoted more of their bonus to pro-social spending experienced greater happiness after receiving the bonus, and the manner in which they spent that bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself.

Finally, despite the observable benefits of pro-social spending, our participants spent relatively little of their income on pro-social ends; participants in our national survey, for example, reported devoting more than 10 times as much money for personal as for pro-social spending each month. Although personal spending is of necessity likely to exceed pro-social spending for most North Americans, our findings suggest that very minor alterations in spending allocations—as little as $5 in our final study—may be sufficient to produce nontrivial gains in happiness on a given day. Why, then, don't people make these small changes? Tests revealed that participants were doubly wrong about the impact of money on happiness; we found that a significant majority thought that personal spending would make them happier than pro-social spending and that $20 would make them happier than $5.


G‑d spoke to Moses saying: "Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering..."Exodus 25:1-2.

Our sages have pointed out the curious wording of this command: should not G‑d have instructed the Israelites to give an offering, rather than to take one?

But the precise wording teaches us that when we give a charitable contribution we are actually taking more than giving. In the words of the Midrash (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 34): "More than the benefactor benefits the pauper, the pauper benefits the benefactor."


G‑d created the world based on a system of rules that He conjured. These rules encompass all of creation—both its matter and its spirit. Many of these rules are of the cause-and-effect variety. You throw a ball in the air, it will come down. You plant a seed, a plant will grow. You forget your wife's birthday, all sorts of bad things happen. You give charity, and you end up getting.

In His kindness, he gave us creation's master blueprint, the Torah, which contains all the rules—whether explicitly or encrypted.

Some of these rules are intuitive, some are not. Sometimes it takes a scientific study to empirically demonstrate the truth of one of these rules.

Who knows? Maybe the next study will confirm that closing one's business on Shabbat actually increases revenue...


Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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Anonymous Denver September 24, 2015

Shabbat does not hurt production I bet closing one's business on Shabbat (or Sunday or Friday for Christian or Muslim) does increase income. I once worked 2 jobs so that I had no time for my toddler. I gave one of them up, and my income increased plus I ate better. Reply

Judith L Witten Brockton, MA/USA September 28, 2010

rre: I Give to Charity all the time You sound like a very very strong woman and a very honorable woman to give to charity all the time and be bipolar and arthitic and live on a disability check and have a father who is a Holocaust victim-that is saying alot. Reply

Jennifer Portrait East Hanover, NJ September 27, 2010

I give to charity all of the time. I live on disability, pay my rent, and manage a cell service. I give what I can. This is the only income I get back. I love to shop and I get advice not to help anyone at all. My advice is to try again and again. I took a bus trip to little italy for fun. My problem is arthritis and being bipolar. A Jewish problem. My father was an immigrant who was a victim of the holocaust. He was a storekeeper. He spoke Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. Reply

Judith L Witten Brockton, MA/USA September 24, 2010

charity i recieve a disability check since age twenty and I live in a place where my sister can keep a close watch over me and send money when she can-she has MS-but she is a incredable woman and a very strong one and she and I are also planning to give charity in the form of a contribution to Chabad.org soon. Point is to send it around even if it takes a while to collect the funds for charity Reply

Elizabeth via chabadofbakersfield.com March 5, 2009

Response to Jeffrey Yes, American culture has definitely depended on the credit system. They may look rich outwardly, but we cannot judge their situation. It is 'pay along system,' to ease the burden of the demands of life and it is for the sake of consumerism. These are the woes of economics.

With regards to the scriputre, I totally agree. There was a time, G-d challenged me to give my savings to the religious organization, when I barely started my life after college. After I obeyed G-d in this task, He blessed me. I do believe G-d opens doors that you have not imagined. Therefore, I encourage you to support the Rabbis and others in need. You will have haven in your heart. G-d smiles at YOU! Reply

Cindy Scott Simi Valley, CA March 5, 2009

Homeless and no charity I am a divorced 53 year old woman faced with being homeless. Our Rabbi at the Chabad has his hands tied and no real funds although he never sends me away empty giving of whatever he has in the food bin. Inviting me to services and meals. I attend and find it's nice to be home for the time being. I can't find a room to rent with my sig. other because we have a dog that we love. We are both disable and need a place to live now. It's just such a hard time for all. G-d Bless us all and please don't hesitate to offer your blessings. Reply

Anonymous July 21, 2008

Myra, we all have hardships in life, though your trials do sound testing. Was there a point in time when you were truly blessed? Reply

Myra Griswold, CT May 18, 2008

Hope Thank you so much for your kind words. I emailed the local Chabad house, but, the response I received was that I should attend services. I realize that that they should meet me, and perhaps one day I'll be able to attend. I do not know Hebrew, I do not even know how to act while there. Yes, I read everything Chabad.org sends to me. But I know nothing about the Omer. I read it, but I cannot understand it. Perhaps is I study enough, I'll learn. I wish you good health and many Blessings. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA May 16, 2008

Getting support from Chabad website Dear Myra, I've been getting notices when a response is made to your letter. I am sad to read that your problems persist. However, as a person of limited means as I've stated above, I've found much support and comfort in many of the readings that I see on Chabad's various websites. Several yeas ago I was diagnosed with ADHD,yes adults have it too. I realize that that particular problem isn't as terrible as yours but it does create havoc in my life. I've found helpful tips in the "counting the Omer" messages sent daily. Hopefully you will find something that will help you. Have you thought of calling the Chabad, even if you can't get there, maybe they can offer help. Reply

Myra Griswold, CT May 16, 2008

Lost Hope...perhaps not As I read the wonderful suggestions I've received on this blog, I must admit I've tried them all (except the roof-can't climb a ladder). I have been trying to get closer to G-d through prayer. I was also invited to a Women's Retreat that will enable me to meet other's and receive help to get closer to G-d. I'm not sure how I found the website telling me about this retreat, I'm also not sure why, after I emailed them and asked if I could attend, that they held their arms out, found me a sponsor to enable to share 4 nights surrounded by women who have only wish to help and teach. Perhaps it was the prayer's sent by many of you, but wherever this opportunity came from, I feel it is a gift from G-d. So to all who read this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for your suggestions and encouragement. You have all helped me more than you know. I feel blessed to be Jewish. Reply

Debra Alamogordo, NM May 13, 2008

Last Hope Dear Myra, Bless your heart! This life is certainly not easy! I am praying for you! I can feel the desperation in your thoughts. I too am going thru tough times, but know this that The G-d of our fathers is listening! He hears your heart cry out. I pray that HE will bring someone into your life to show you HIS love and blessings! But, also, YOU must cry out to ABBA, Father... HE is waiting to have a relationship with you. May HIS presence come upon you in a mighty way!
Love, Reply

Michal Passau Passau , Germany May 13, 2008

Lost hope Hi, Myra,
I have the impression, that you suffer fromloneliness. I know this feeling, as I lost my husband by a sudden death.
What helped me most, was to talk to G-d about my anger. Do it and after that be open and listen. He will answer you. Suddenly you get insights and slowly your life and your mood will change. And be sure, everything you experience, G-d, who loves you, thinks that you need it and will get through it.
So, repair your leaking roof yourself. A woman can do it. (We had trailers for many years and they were always old and used ones.) You have phantasy and you are a woman. Make your home as beautiful as possible. Wash the curtains, clean up everything. Then even a piece of dry bread will tast deliciously. I know by experience.
Many years my husband could not work. Head up!. You are so lucky to be a Jew! Say your prayers and listen to the birds in the morning. G-d is looking at you,
waiting for you, waiting that you learn to trust in Him.
Love Reply

Myra Dreitzer Griswold, CT May 13, 2008

Lost Hope I wish to thank everybody for their prayers and advice. I have been a silent reader on Chabad.org for 2 years now, and yes, most days I am inspired and in good spirits. I would love to support my local Chabad, but I cannot afford to give money nor can I afford the gas to get there (I live far away) I have been praying alot for help to understand these things I cannot comprehend. I sit alone everyday and wonder what happened to my life. I pray for my current depression to be replaced by happiness, Is this it for me? Will I die alone in a leaky trailer? Charity? No, I don't believe the majority of people give charity without expecting something in return. Some say that G-d doesn't give us more than we can handle. Some say that G-d tests us. My understanding of G-d's will is no longer limitless. I'm getting burned out and desperately trying to stay away from self-pity. It's just so very hard. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA May 12, 2008

Doesn't giving of oneself count too? i have been in a low income category for several years, following 8 yrs of fairly good income. I don't have much "disposable" income, however, I do frequently have "time" and I try to give that way, volunteering at a senior center, and helping out in other situations. I did give recently to one of the organizations that had an article in an issue of HaModia, just before Pesach. I knew I really couldn't afford the $25, but decided to give anyway. I'm glad I did. But, as a semiretired person, I have more time than money, and always feel my "time" is appreciated. Reply

C. Kaplan Franklin Lakes, NJ May 9, 2008

or is it the other way around? I am not questioning the premise that giving to others makes one happy. But I am questioning the validty of this andl similarly executed studies. Perhaps happy people are more apt to give charity i.e. they were happier to begin with which prompted them to give to others? The second part of the study didn't gauge the 'happiness level' of the employees before they got their bonus! Again, maybe those who were happy to start were the ones who gave more away?
Just thinking to myself.... Reply

Dovid Brownstein Kingston, PA via baismenachem.com May 9, 2008

Publication date It is interesting to note that the first news release on thiis study was dated March 21, 2008 on PsychPort, the official newswire of the American Psychological Association. March 21st was Purim this year, a day that is centered around the experience of joy. On Purim Jews are obligated to perform four additional commandments, two of which -- Mishloach Manos and Matanos L'evyomin -- require an act of giving to another. Reply

Anonymous Alamogordo, NM/ USA May 8, 2008

Do you get Charity? I loved this article!!! Recently I have been led to a woman in prison... I am giving to her... as a Mitzvot.... charity! It has done something inside my heart that has been lacking in the past. Thank G-d! Reply

Myra Dreitzer Griswold, CT May 7, 2008

Charity Thank you all for your comments. I do pray for understanding not money. Yes, my roof leaks, yes, I live alone in poverty, but I can still hope that one day things will be okay. Skipping a meal once in awhile doesn't hurt that much ;) There are so many that have it worse than I do. Reply

Naftali Silberberg, Chabad.org Editorial Team May 7, 2008

To Anonymous from S.M., CA Though your intentions are noble, posting such info would set a very dangerous precedent :(

It would lead to all sorts of people posting comment asking for money -- with no way for us to verify which claims are real. Reply

Michal Passau, Germany May 7, 2008

This too will pass... Dear Andrew,
I do not like King Salomons ring too much.
There are things which do not pass, never. For instance when your loved one died.
He has been half of you, and that half is then in the world where there is no pain anymore, but gladness in the Presence of G-d. But when you are left behind, your second half is missing as long as you live. Only after you die too and are reunited,
it has passed.
This happened to me (as to many others of course). I have the feeling, sometimes life is bad. I feel bad and can not change things. But what helps me really? That I am never alone. In happiness and in sad times G-d is with me, near me, wherever I am, and He knows my feelings. For Him Iit does not matter, in which mood I am. He loves me anyway. And He cares for me as for all His children. For you, Myra, also. Just trust Him and sometimes he even lets miracles happen. Can be small ones. Just to tell you, He cares. Be blessed! Reply

What's the latest news? For that information, check your local or national news outlet. In this blog we will discuss the "why?"

Not "why did this event occur?" but "why did I find out about it?" There must be a reason. It must contain a lesson I can use to better myself and my surroundings. Together we will find the lessons...
Naftali SilberbergRabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.
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