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Giving Charity While in a Difficult Financial Situation

Giving Charity While in a Difficult Financial Situation



My question is regarding giving a tenth of our income to charity. My husband and I have always been faithful in this, but recently we have fallen into financially difficult times. We have several small children, and often times we do not have enough for a nice meal on Shabbat, and we find it difficult to buy Torah education books for our children and selves. The holidays are approaching, and things don't really look great. I think you get the picture... How strictly should we continue to do give even if it means going without other essentials? Can we give some of this to ourselves for the above causes? Any help or advice would be appreciated.


From what the executive directors of my children's schools tell me (they review tuition subsidy applications), you are not alone in facing the grueling test of financial pressures. Not that knowing this necessarily makes matters any easier to handle.

As tough as things are, though, I would urge you not to cut back on your outlay for Shabbat. Because our sages assure us that what we pay to honor the Shabbat is not deducted from our divinely determined annual income.

Under your present circumstances, there are a number of expenses that you are allowed to count as part of your ma'aser (ten percent designated for charity).

1. Torah books can be paid for from ma'aser monies; if you purchase them for loaning to others also, besides for your own use.

2. Depending on the ages of your children, tuition may be paid for from ma'aser (speak to your rabbi to find out whether your situation meets the halachic criteria).

3. Remember that ma'aser only has to be taken from net income, not from gross income. In addition, it is possible to deduct from your net certain work related expenses that Uncle Sam may not allow.

I urge you to speak with your own local rabbi to obtain further guidance about ma'aser. And also to explore what social support services are available in the Jewish community to help you through these pressing times.

Surely, though, G‑d will bless you and your family with a good and sweet year, with abundant health and livelihood, rendering your question purely academic.

Best wishes for a good and sweet year!

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for

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Robert Trent Georgia August 24, 2016

My experience is that people of modest means help the poor far more than do the rich.
They often live on the same street or in the same neighborhood.
The rich have their foundations, which more often than not are established to avoid taxes and/or to further an agenda, and support the charitable purpose only enough to retain taxfree status. Reply

Anonymous August 13, 2016

Always Giving HI Heidi,
You are not alone out there, we all face the same problem every year. However when the time arives we all have to ditch into our savings or wate for tax return. I myself being on limited [S.S] income and with medical and medication expenses. Took an envelope and mark it Tax Money and made a commitment to set aside every month $175.00 just like any other payment and when tax time came I walk to the tax office make the payment and had a little extra. I walk out with a big smile If you go this route you"ll never going to lack. Give it a try even if it's not the amount you intent or skip a month it's worth trying

May G-od Bless You Reply

Heidi PSL via January 15, 2015

Always giving. How does one receive? We are always giving if not in coin, maybe in lending a hand or passing of used clothing or books or giving meals to random homeless and we do so kindheartedly without expecting to receive.Just as I have done since learning at a young age . We have cut the cord (our contract finally over) Antenna TV w/ internet & Hulu serves just fine, I suggest more folks do the same. We gave up having 2 cell phone lines, just made no sense I am on permanent disability since 2006 and my husband is now told by 3 doctors he can no longer work ( we are fighting disability who agree my husband can't do his job but denied anyway) .. We have gone w/out h/o ins for a year now something we got away with because we have no mortgage,Yes, we say a prayer each day that goes by without a problem. We are looking to get help however what we are extremely worried about are our homeowners taxes that are coming due of $1500.00. We can't loose our home/everything and be homeless Any suggestions on where we can get help. Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA via November 18, 2007

Non-monetary Tzedekah Tzedekah can take many forms besides a gift of money. According to Hillel, the highest form of Tzedekah is to help another person become self-sufficient, not to give them a handout. If you can teach your trade to others, drive them to job interviews, volunteer in a school (even as a janitor, because it will allow the school to spend its limited funds on education, instead of paying janitors) or otherwise do something to help others become self-sufficient, that is a higher form of Tzedekah than a financial contribution.

[However, if you are the bank that recently negotiated a settlement of class action lawsuit in which the attorneys will receive several million dollars in cash and the victims will receive only non-cash "benefit", then you cannot count the non-cash "benefit" to the class members as Tzedekah, no matter how many lawyers you pay to tell the judge otherwise.] Reply

Anonymous Israel September 16, 2007

maaser and tzedakah Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer has written a great book, published by Artscroll, on all the halachot and practical applications of maaser and tzedakah. It's called "The Tzedakah Treasury" I highly recomend it. Its 400+ pages and written very well. It may give you more insight into what is reqiuired, what is permited, etc. Shanah tovah and hatzlachah. Reply

Anonymous September 12, 2007

Tzedekah and Business There are two reasons why families or businesses fall into financial trouble. A:: They have a poor financial budget and short/long term strategy (Placing money in a 401K to earn 10% when they pay 25% on their credit cards) or B: They are suffering from a poor financial environment (recession,industry shift or job loss).

Find a good Jewish CPA in your community that can give you the bottom line. Either you have had true difficulties or you may be living beyond your means. Best of luck Reply

Anonymous September 11, 2007

Also, I would suggest talking to a Rabbi in person. If you are a professional looking for a job, there is a great site called that you can try. Try to activate your network of contacts, which is the prime source of new jobs, you can use for this. And above all, keep your mind focused in finding opportunities and don´t allow yourself to get depressed.
Best wishes for this new year. Hope everything will be great. Reply

Anonymous September 9, 2007

Charity both ways Friends, find a Hebrew Free Loan Society in your area. They helped me in a time of need. Reply

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