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Is it appropriate to give charity at night?

Is it appropriate to give charity at night?

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Question:

I read somewhere that it is inappropriate to give tzedakah (charity) during the night. Can you explain why?

Answer:

In the Jerusalem Talmud there is a story told of Rabbi Chiya bar Pappa who gave tzedakah at night, and the leader of the evil spirits came to him and said "Isn't it taught in the Torah: 'You shall not move back your neighbor's landmark'?"

In its most literal sense, this prohibition, known as "hasagat g'vul," prohibits surreptitiously moving a land marker separating your field from your neighbor's in order to expand your own property. The prohibition also includes, however, any encroachment upon a fellow's profession and/or livelihood.

Nighttime is when the divine forces of judgment and severity rule supreme; the physical darkness is a mirror image of its divine source. When giving tzedakah we are "sweetening" the harshness of pure justice, tempering and diluting whatever tough love would have been doled out during that time—which is why the spirit complained to the rabbi. He was concerned that Rabbi Chiya was interfering with his power to fulfill his divinely ordained mission, and thus violating the prohibition against pulling back a neighbor's landmark.

This Talmudic passage is the basis for that which is written in many mystical works, to avoid giving charity at night.

Nevertheless, this concern applies only to actively seeking out a pauper during nighttime hours to give him tzedakah. If one is approached by a needy person for help, there is a 24/7 obligation to help our brethren in need, and all other considerations are disregarded in the face of human need, as the Torah instructs us, "You shall not harden your heart."

The same would apply to placing money in a tzedakah box. The money given is not going to the poor man's pocket right now, during the nighttime hours, so it would be okay. Writing a check is similarly not problematic.

Click here to learn more about tzedakah.

Rabbi Moshe Goldman for Chabad.org

Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the Director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org December 1, 2016

Re: Giving Tzedakah Online at Night It would be the same as writing a check or placing money in a tzedakah box. In most cases it is not doing to the pauper right at the moment. Reply

Boruch Milter Oak Park, MI November 23, 2016

Giving Tzedakah Online at Night What about giving tzedakah online at night? Is it similar to writing a check or are there complicating factors? Reply

Rabbi Moshe Goldman March 9, 2008

To Ari Night time is the time designated by G-d as being more under the domain of the “forces of severity”. G-d has created these forces and elements in the universe for a purpose – they are not here by accident. So they must be given some energy to survive, otherwise they would cease to exist. Giving Tzedaka at night would serve to sweeten the severe judgments, as you wrote, and by doing so we would be taking away their energy, and they would cease to exist. This is what is meant by the statement about encroaching on someone's business or property. Reply

Ari February 8, 2008

I don't get it! We are sweetening the dinim if we give Tzedoko, why would this be a problem at night?! On the contrary, it should be encouraged! Shouldn't it be? Reply

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