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Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity

Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity

Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7–14

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There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.

[1] The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .

[2] A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.

[3] A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.

[4] A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.

[5] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.

[6] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.

[7] A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.

[8] A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.

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Yakov Israel Sheffield March 30, 2016

The only 'ism' we accept as binding, and the only 'ism' that defines Jews, is 'Judaism', not socialism or capitalism etc etc. If Jews have socialist tendencies, it's because they believe in helping the most needy in society, and making it law to do so, much like to Torah law of tithing, which is binding on all Jews. There is no such thing as a 'socialist Jew', but 'Jew' alone. Jewish identity is defined by G-d, the Creator, Blessed Be He for All Eternity, not worldly labels of distinction. Reply

Yakov Israel Sheffield March 30, 2016

I've been guilty of this, but at least there are 7 more steps to climb.

I agree with Maimonedes 100%. His wisdom surely comes from G-d, and the 8 points can be supported by the Torah.

G-d has been giving to us.

Genesis 12:3 "I will bless those that bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Today Rabah! Reply

Anonymous Toronto October 19, 2015

Disagree w/ Maimonedes on the 7th level of giving (who am I?)

My limited experience in giving to people begging in Toronto is that it is a) impossible to give adequately, as this would require an in depth financial analysis; b) "...but gives gladly, with a smile..." Is close, but not nearly enough. Poor people who have to beg suffer from low self esteem. If they are not dangerous, I always try to go down to the ground on my haunches, speak to them with a lot of respect, and engage them in meaningful conversation, like asking what happened that they are having a tough time? And really, any of us can have the bottom fall out and end up on the street like them. A person's dignity is paramount. There must be a Jewish expression for this, as this is an age old problem? Would like to learn more. Reply

Felipe mexico December 18, 2014

that's why you are superior. Reply

Anonymous UK December 18, 2014

Then why are so many American Jews socialist liberals? Reply

Madman Defarge Brooklyn March 13, 2014

An understanding of socialism as 'forcible taking' is incorrect and is actually informed only by those who seek to do nothing but smear its name. Accepting such a definition would be like going to an antisemite for an explanation of Judaism.

Socialism is a social order under which working people have collective control over both the process and products of their labor. Far from being 'forcible taking', socialism abolishes the forcible taking of the workers' surplus value (the difference between what the worker is paid and what the product of their labor is actually worth on the market) by the employer who owns the tools that the worker needs to work.

To give examples of societies that have called themselves 'socialist' but did not have such an order in an attempt to discredit socialism would be like using the horrors of The Democratic People's Republic of Korea to discredit democracy. It is simply arguing in bad faith. Reply

Bruce Virginia Beach June 12, 2013

Socialism does not involve giving, grudgingly or otherwise, but forcible taking. Reply

Netta Goldman Nahariya Israel June 12, 2013

Re: Socailism.
No not interpreted.
But pure and successful socialism, like the kibbutz of 50 years ago, would be one of the possible expressions of socialism. Reply

Mark Richman Parkland, FL June 11, 2013

Could one interpret level 8 as socialism? Reply

Maurice M Mizrahi BURKE March 15, 2013

I think all these are in the Talmud. Specific references should be given. Reply

Srikanth Dairyland January 7, 2013

I think the greatest charity is clear about who the recipient must be. Reply

Minorkle New York, NY February 3, 2012

What if I, as a Jew, support a Christian by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .is that good? Reply

Bruce Virginia Beach, VIRGINIA September 28, 2011

Having money forcibly taken to give to another would be at what level? Reply

Jack Midland Park August 29, 2011

Thanks for your reply.
I would like to hear from Israelis living in the U.S. Do they expect to return to Israel ?
Sorry, I am not an engineer. Reply

Netta Goldman Nahariya, Israel August 27, 2011

Well it's easier to get ahead in America. But anyone, as the Rambam pointed out, would prefer to make an honest living rather than getting charity. He would not condone moving to the States. We have areas of drought with more than 300 days of sunlight a year. Interested in producing electricity for export? You'd have a job and provide others with work too. That's Rambam's top level, and it's Herzl's too. Reply

Jack Midland Park August 25, 2011

You make an interesting comment. If I went I would need a job so I could buy from local merchants. Many Israeli citizens have moved to our area. Why is that ? Reply

Netta Goldman Nahariya, Israel August 24, 2011

Now if you would actually MOVE to Israel..... Reply

Jack Midland Park June 28, 2011

During the second intifada, a group of us Americans went to Israel and found that most of the shops were devoid of customers.
We tried to help and bought things that we did not need.
What level is this ? Reply

Milton Jones Huntsville, Alabama June 14, 2011

Eliahu Graubard, above has a point. RAMBAM wrote what he wrote. He forbids being treated by a outside physicial except in case of death or the treatment. In M-T and Guide, the RAMBAM takes the long term, as in M-T an ignorant man cannot bi pious, that is in context: The ignorant man cannot contribute to the progress of civilization. The charity which enables the receiver to so contribute serves the progress of civilization as well as the condition and comfort of the receiver. Simply buying from a Jewish business makes no such contribution, at least not in a way so clearly expressive of natural cause and effect. AKIBA long before expressed what Mr. Graubard reminds us of. Maybe RAMBAM thought the point needed no iteration Reply

Eliahu Graubard Los Angeles, California August 1, 2010

I am confused why you did not mention buying from a jewish business is included as tzadaka (charity).

Rashi puts it equal to giving a job in the category of providing a parnasah (livelihood).

It is critical to mention that it is a circle.

You buy from a Jewish Business he/she buys from a Jew & the money stays in the cmmunity. Also more money are donated to our very important mosdot (institutions).

I am sure that this point was simply forgotton but I felt it important to mention.

May we all have the merit to give much tzadaka any way we can! Reply