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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 8, Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 9, Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 10

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Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 8

1

Charity is considered as a vow. Therefore one who says: "I pledge to give a sela to charity"1 or "[I will give] this sela to charity,"2 he is obligated to give it [to charity] immediately.3 If he delays, he transgresses the commandment against delaying [the observance of one's vow],4 for he has the capacity to make the gift immediately and [generally,] there are poor people at hand.

If there are no poor people at hand, he should set aside [the donation] and put it away until he finds poor people.5 If he made a stipulation that he is not obligated to make the donation until he finds poor people, he does not have to separate it [until the poor are at hand]. Similarly, if he made a stipulation at the time he made his vow to charity or pledged his donation that the trustees of the charitable fund could exchange it for gold, they are permitted to do so.6

א

הצדקה הרי היא בכלל הנדרים לפיכך האומר הרי עלי סלע לצדקה או הרי סלע זו צדקה חייב ליתנה לעניים מיד ואם איחר עבר בבל תאחר שהרי בידו ליתן מיד ועניים מצויין הן אין שם עניים מפריש ומניח עד שימצא עניים ואם התנה שלא יתן עד שימצא עני אינו צריך להפריש וכן אם התנה בשעה שנדר בצדקה או התנדב אותו שיהיו הגבאין רשאין לשנותה ולצורפה בזהב הרי אלו מותרין:

2

When a person extends a vow made to charity, he is obligated as is the case with regard to other vows.7

What is implied? If he said: "This sela is like this one [given to charity], it is also charity. When a person sets aside a sela and says: "This is charity" and then takes another sela and says: "And this," the second is also charity even though he did not say so explicitly.8

ב

המתפיס בצדקה חייב כשאר הנדרים כיצד אמר הרי סלע זו כזו הרי זו צדקה המפריש סלע ואמר הרי זו צדקה ולקח סלע שנייה ואמר וזו הרי שנייה צדקה ואע"פ שלא פירש:

3

When a person takes a vow [to give charity], but does not remember how much he vowed to give, he should give until he says: "I did not intend [to give] this [much]."9

ג

הנודר צדקה ולא ידע כמה נדר יתן עד שיאמר לא לכך נתכוונתי:

4

[The following rules apply] both to a person who says: "This sela is charity" and one who says: "I pledge a sela for charity" and sets it aside. If he desires to exchange it with another [coin], he is permitted to do so.10 Once it reaches the hand of the treasurer of the charity, it is forbidden to be exchanged. If the treasurer of the charity desires to exchange the common currency for dinarim,11 they are not permitted to do so.12 If there are no poor among whom to distribute the funds, they should have others exchange the coins,13but they should not do so themselves.

ד

אחד האומר סלע זו צדקה או האומר הרי עלי סלע לצדקה והפרישו אם רצה לשנותו באחר מותר ואם משהגיע ליד הגבאי אסור לשנותו ואם רצו הגבאים לצרף המעות ולעשותן דינרין אינן רשאין אלא אם אין שם עניים לחלק מצרפין לאחרים אבל לא לעצמן:

5

If the poor would benefit from the delay of the money in the possession of the charity collector so that he could motivate others to give,14 that charity collector may borrow the money and pay [when the funds are required]. For charity does not resemble funds dedicated to the Temple treasury from which it is forbidden to benefit.

ה

היה לעניים הנאה בעיכוב המעות ביד הגבאי כדי לעשות לאחרים ליתן הרי אותו הגבאי מותר ללוות אותם המעות של עניים ופורע שהצדקה אינה כהקדש שאסור ליהנות בו:

6

When a person donates a candelabra or a lamp to a synagogue, it is forbidden to exchange it.15 If it is for a sacramental purpose, it is permitted to exchange it, even though the name of the donor is still associated with it, e.g., it is said: "This is so-and-so's candelabra" or "...so-and-so's lamp."16 If the name of the donor is no longer associated with it, it may be exchanged17 even for matters that are not sacramental in nature.

ו

מי שהתנדב מנורה או נר לבית הכנסת אסור לשנותה ואם לדבר מצוה מותר לשנותה אף על פי שלא נשתקע שם בעליה מעליה אלא אומרים זו המנורה או נר של פלוני ואם נשתקע שם הבעלים מעליה מותר לשנותה אפילו לדבר הרשות:

7

When does the above apply? When the donor was Jewish. If, however, he was a gentile, it is forbidden to exchange it even for matters that are sacramental in nature as long as the name of the donor is still associated with it.18 [We fear that] the gentile might say: "I consecrated an article to the Jews' synagogue and they sold it for their own purposes."19

ז

במה דברים אמורים בשהיה המתנדב ישראל אבל אם היה עכו"ם אסור לשנותה אפילו לדבר מצוה עד שישתקע שם בעליה מעליה שמא יאמר העכו"ם הקדשתי דבר לבית הכנסת של יהודים ומכרוהו לעצמן:

8

When a gentile seeks to make a donation to the Temple treasury, initially, we do not accept it. If, however, it was taken from him, we do not return it to him. If it was a specific article, e.g., a beam or a stone, we return it to him so that there will not be a specific entity in the Temple associated with [a gentile], as [Ezra 4:3] states: "It is not for you,20 together with us to build a Temple for our God."21 For a synagogue, by contrast, we may accept their [donations, even] initially, provided they say: "I am donating it according to the intent of the Jewish people." If he does not say so, it must be entombed, for perhaps his intent was to consecrate it unto God.22 We do not receive donations23 from them for the walls of Jerusalem or an aqueduct in [that city], as [Nechemiah 2:20] states: "And you do not have a portion or a remembrance in Jerusalem."24

ח

עכו"ם שהתנדב לבדק הבית אין מקבלין ממנו לכתחלה ואם לקחו ממנו אין מחזירין לו היה הדבר מסויים כגון קורה או אבן מחזירין לו כדי שלא יהא להן דבר מסויים במקדש שנאמר לא לכם ולנו וגו' אבל לבית הכנסת מקבלין מהן לכתחלה והוא שיאמר כדעת ישראל הפרשתי ואם לא אמר טעון גניזה שמא לבו לשמים ואין מקבלים מהם לחומת ירושלים ולא לאמת המים שבה שנאמר ולכם אין חלק וזכרון בירושלים:

9

It is forbidden for a Jew to receive charity from a gentile25 in public.26 If he is unable to subsist on the charity given by the Jews and it is impossible to receive charity from the gentiles in private, it is permitted.

When a gentile king or official sends money to the Jews for charity, we do not return it to him so as [not to jeopardize] peaceful relations with the king.27 Instead, we take [the charity] from him and give it to the gentile poor in secret28 so that the king will not hear.29

ט

אסור לישראל ליטול צדקה מן העכו"ם בפרהסיא ואם אינו יכול לחיות בצדקה של ישראל ואינו יכול ליטלה מן העכו"ם בצנעה הרי זה מותר ומלך או שר מן העכו"ם ששלח ממון לישראל לצדקה אין מחזירין אותו לו משום שלום מלכות אלא נוטלין ממנו וינתן לעניי עכו"ם בסתר כדי שלא ישמע המלך:

10

The redemption of captives receives priority over sustaining the poor and providing them with clothing. [Indeed,] there is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of captives.30 For a captive is among those who are hungry, thirsty, and unclothed and he is in mortal peril.31 If someone pays no attention to his redemption, he violates the negative commandments: "Do not harden your heart or close your hand" (Deuteronomy 15:7), "Do not stand by when the blood of your neighbor is in danger" (Leviticus 19:16), and "He shall not oppress him with exhausting work in your presence" (ibid. 25:53). And he has negated the observance of the positive commandments: "You shall certainly open up your hand to him" (Deuteronomy 15:8), "And your brother shall live with you" (ibid. 19:18), "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), "Save those who are taken for death" (Proverbs 24:11), and many other decrees of this nature. There is no mitzvah as great as the redemption of captives.

י

פדיון שבויים קודם לפרנסת עניים ולכסותן ואין לך מצוה גדולה כפדיון שבויים שהשבוי הרי הוא בכלל הרעבים והצמאים והערומים ועומד בסכנת נפשות והמעלים עיניו מפדיונו הרי זה עובר על לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפוץ את ידך ועל לא תעמוד על דם רעך ועל לא ירדנו בפרך לעיניך ובטל מצות פתח תפתח את ידך לו ומצות וחי אחיך עמך ואהבת לרעך כמוך והצל לקוחים למות והרבה דברים כאלו ואין לך מצוה רבה כפדיון שבויים:

11

When the inhabitants of a city collected money for building a synagogue and a purpose associated with a mitzvah arose, they may use the money for that purpose. If they purchased stones and beams, they should not sell them [and use the proceeds] for a purpose associated with a mitzvah other than the redemption of captives.32 Even though they brought the stones [to the building site], cut the beams and shaped them to size, and prepared everything for building, it should all be sold, [but] only for the sake of redeeming captives. If they built [the synagogue] and completed it,33 it should not be sold. Instead, the funds necessary to redeem the captives should be raised from the community.34

יא

אנשי העיר שגבו מעות לבנין בית הכנסת ובא להן דבר מצוה מוציאין בו המעות קנו אבנים וקורות לא ימכרום לדבר מצוה אלא לפדיון שבויים אע"פ שהביאו את האבנים וגדרום ואת הקורות ופסלום והתקינו הכל לבנין מוכרין הכל לפדיון שבויים בלבד אבל אם בנו וגמרו לא ימכרו את בית הכנסת אלא יגבו לפדיונן מן הצבור:

12

We do not redeem captives for more than their worth35 for the benefit of the world at large, i.e., so that enemies will not pursue people to hold them captive.36We do not assist captives in escaping, for the benefit of the world at large, i.e., so that enemies will not oppress captives seriously and be very strict when guarding them.37

יב

אין פודין את השבויים ביתר על דמיהן מפני תקון העולם שלא יהיו האויבים רודפין אחריהם לשבותם ואין מבריחין את השבויים מפני תקון העולם שלא יהיו האויבים מכבידין עליהן את העול ומרבים בשמירתן:

13

When a person sold himself and his children [as servants] to gentiles or borrowed money from them and they held him captive or imprisoned him [because of his failure to pay] the loan, it is a mitzvah to redeem him the first or second time [he is held]. [If this happens] a third time, we do not redeem him.38 We do, however, redeem the sons after their father's passing.39 If they sought to kill him, we redeem him from their hands even if he [has been held captive] several times.40

יג

מי שמכר עצמו ובניו לעכו"ם או שלוה מהן ושבו אותן או אסרוהו בהלואתן פעם ראשונה ושנייה מצוה לפדותן שלישית אין פודין אותן אבל פודין את הבנים לאחר מיתת אביהן ואם בקשוהו להורגו פודין אותו מידם אפילו אחר כמה פעמים:

14

When a servant is held captive, since he immersed himself [in the mikveh] and accepted the mitzvot,41 he should be redeemed like a Jew who has been taken captive. When a captive abandons his faith even with regard to only one mitzvah, e.g., he eats meat from animals that were not ritually slaughtered with the intent of angering God42 or the like, it is forbidden to redeem him.

יד

עבד שנשבה הואיל וטבל לשם עבדות וקבל עליו מצות פודין אותו כישראל שנשבה ושבוי שהמיר לעכו"ם ואפילו למצוה אחת כגון שהיה אוכל נבלה להכעיס וכיוצא בו אסור לפדותו:

15

A woman receives precedence over a man with regard to being given sustenance, clothing, and to be redeemed from captivity.43 [The rationale is that] it is common for a man to beg, but not for a woman and this is extremely embarrassing for her. If they were both held in captivity and they were both solicited for a transgression,44 the man should be redeemed first, because this is not ordinary for him.45

טו

האשה קודמת לאיש להאכיל ולכסות ולהוציא מבית השבי מפני שהאיש דרכו לחזר לא האשה ובושתה מרובה ואם היו שניהם בשביה ונתבעו שניהן לדבר עבירה האיש קודם לפדות לפי שאין דרכו לכך:

16

When a male and female orphan come seeking assistance in marriage, we assist the woman before the man, because the woman's shame is greater. She should not be given less than the weight of six and a quarter dinarim of pure silver.46 If the treasury of the charitable fund has the means, we give the money according to her honor.

טז

יתום ויתומה שבאו להשיא אותן משיאין האשה קודם לאיש מפני שבושתה של אשה מרובה ולא יפחתו לה ממשקל ששה דינרים ורביע דינר של כסף טהור ואם יש בכיס של צדקה נותנין לה לפי כבודה:

17

If there were many poor people or many captives and one does not have the means to provide sustenance or clothing for all of them or to redeem all of them, a priest is given precedence over a Levite.47 A Levite is given precedence over an Israelite. An Israelite is given precedence over a challal,48 a challal over a shituki,49 a shituki over an asufi,50 an asufi over a mamzer,51 a mamzer over a netin,52and a netin over a convert. [The rationale for the latter is that] a netin grew up with us in holiness.53 A convert is granted precedence over a freed servant, for [the latter] was originally among those who were "cursed."54

יז

היו לפנינו עניים הרבה או שבויים הרבה ואין בכיס כדי לפרנס או כדי לכסות או כדי לפדות את כולן מקדימין את הכהן ללוי ולוי לישראל וישראל לחלל וחלל לשתוקי ושתוקי לאסופי ואסופי לממזר וממזר לנתין ונתין לגר שהנתין גדל עמנו בקדושה וגר קודם לעבד משוחרר לפי שהיה בכלל ארור:

18

When does the above apply? When the two [captives] were equal in knowledge. If, however, a High Priest55 was unlearned and a mamzer was a Torah scholar, the Torah scholar receives precedence.56 Whoever surpasses his colleague in knowledge receives precedence over his colleague.

If, however, one [of the poor or the captives] is one's teacher or father,57 His father or teacher who is a Torah scholar58 receives precedence over another who surpasses him in wisdom.

יח

בד"א בשהיו שניהן שוין בחכמה אבל אם היה כהן גדול עם הארץ וממזר תלמיד חכם תלמיד חכם קודם וכל הגדול בחכמה קודם את חבירו ואם היה אחד מהן רבו או אביו אף על פי שיש שם גדול מהן בחכמה רבו או אביו שהוא תלמיד חכם קודם לזה שהוא גדול מהם בחכמה:

Footnotes
1.

I.e., he accepts the obligation upon himself. This is referred to as a vow (Hilchot Nedarim 1:2).

2.

Designating the coin for that purpose. This is referred to as a donation (ibid.).

3.

For one is obligated to fulfill his pledges at the earliest possible date.

4.

Deuteronomy 23:22 commands: "Do not delay in paying it" and Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot 14:13 considers the prohibition against delaying payment of one's vows as one of the 613 commandments.

5.

He does not, however, have to seek out poor people to give it to them (Siftei Cohen 257:5).

6.

Compare to Halachah 4.

7.

See Hilchot Nedarim 3:3-4.

8.

Although Nedarim 7a leaves this matter unresolved, the Rambam and other authorities rule stringently.

9.

I.e., we obligate him to give until he is certain that he gave an amount that surpassed his vow.

10.

Unlike a coin consecrated to the Temple treasury, there is no necessity for a formal process of exchange. The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 259:1) mention a further leniency, stating that a person may lend out this money - either to himself or to others. See Halachah 5.

11.

I.e., taking petty change and exchanging it for larger coins.

12.

Lest they be suspected of profiting on the exchange.

13.

And thus that suspicion will not apply.

14.

I.e., as long as they hold the money in their possession, they will continue trying to influence others to give. Once they give the money to the poor, we fear that they will cease their efforts.

15.

I.e., to sell it and use the money for another charitable purpose.

16.

The Radbaz states that, for that same purpose, if the name of the donor is engraved upon it, it may not be sold for a non-sacramental purpose. This ruling is quoted by the Rama (Yoreh De'ah 259:3).

17.

From the wording of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 259:3), the Turei Zahav infers that the decision to exchange the article must be made by the community. It is not sufficient for the trustee of the synagogue to make it alone.

18.

If, however, the donor's name is no longer associated with it, it may be sold (Siftei Cohen 259:13).

19.

This would lead to the desecration of God's name (Turei Zahav 259:6).

20.

These words were originally addressed to the heads of the gentile nations who offered to help the Jews who returned to Zion rebuild the Temple. Nevertheless, they apply with regard to all gentiles in every age.

21.

The verse continues: "Instead, we ourselves will build it."

22.

And thus it would be forbidden to benefit from it.

23.

I.e., specific entities like beams or stones. An entity that is not specific may be accepted, for there is no reason to be more stringent for the walls of Jerusalem than for the Temple itself (Radbaz).

24.

These words, spoken by Nechemiah to the gentile enemies of the Jews who returned to Zion, are taken beyond their literal context and applied to building the city at all times.

25.

Based on Hilchot Melachim 10:10, we can assume that this is speaking about an idolater. If, however, a gentile accepts upon himself the observance of the Seven Universal Laws commanded to Noah and his descendants, we are permitted to accept charity from him.

26.

The impression that the Jews cannot take care of their own and must rely on the gentiles for charity degrades the honor of God's name (Turei Zahav 254:1). If, however, the gentiles' charity is given in private, there is no difficulty in accepting it. Indeed, a person who accepts charity from the gentiles in public is not acceptable as a witness (Hilchot Edut 11:5).

27.

For it is highly likely that the king would take offense were he to hear that his charity was spurned.

28.

We do not give it to the Jews, less this generate merit for the gentile king and allow his kingship to prosper (Bava Batra 10b).

29.

For diverting the charity from its intended purpose is also likely to arouse the king's rage.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 254:2) quotes the Rambam's ruling. The Rama states that the king's wishes should be heeded.

30.

For as the Rambam continues to explain, all of the different aspects of charitable gifts are included in the redemption of captives (Bava Batra 8b).

31.

For at any time, his captors may take his life.

32.

An exception is made in this instance, because the captives' lives are at risk.

33.

From the Rambam's wording, the Turei Zahav 252:21 infers that if the building is not complete, it may be sold.

34.

The Siftei Cohen 252:1 states that if the community has no way of raising the funds through other means, it may sell the synagogue.

35.

I.e., they are evaluated like servants sold at a slave market (Meiri, Gittin 45a).

36.

Gittin, loc. cit. gives two reasons:

a) Were lawless men to know that they could receive exorbitant prices for the redemption of captives, they would be encouraged to kidnap them frequently.

b) this would be very taxing for the community.

The Rambam follows the latter view. Hence, even family members who would be willing to pay the extra expense are forbidden to do so (Radbaz). When quoting this law, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 252:4) states that if the captive is a Torah scholar, an exception can be made and he may be redeemed for more than his worth.

37.

I.e., if captives were wont to be helped to escape, kidnappers would become very strict and harsh when guarding other captives in the future.

38.

For it appears that the father has no compunctions against selling himself or his children and thus the situation will merely repeat itself.

39.

Lest they become assimilated among the nations. During their fathers' lifetime, by contrast, we presume that he will educate them concerning their Jewish heritage even when they are held by the gentiles (Rashi, Gittin 47a).

40.

For we do not place any financial concerns above Jewish life.

41.

See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 13:11, 14:9, which explain that these steps are necessary for a servant to attain the status of a servant of the Jewish people.

42.

If, however, he transgresses because it is to his benefit to do so, he may be redeemed, but there is no obligation to redeem him [Rama (Yoreh De'ah 251:2)].

43.

There is another reason to give a woman precedence with regard to the redemption from captivity: We fear that the woman may be raped.

44.

The Rambam is using a euphemism for sexual relations.

45.

I.e., sodomic rape is against a man's nature. Hence it is more shameful than ordinary rape.

46.

Ketubot 67b says the woman should be given 50 dinarim, but those are not pure silver. Instead, they were seven eights base metals and one eighth pure silver.

47.

I.e. we give respect to the holiness of the priest's lineage.

48.

The term challal refers to the offspring of a priest who was born from intimate relations forbidden to a priest or is the descendant of the offspring of such relations. See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, ch. 19. Such a person - and similarly, those that are mentioned afterwards - is considered to be of blemished lineage. The extent of the blemish determines the person's place on the ladder of precedence. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Horiot 3:8) which mentions further details concerning this order of succession.

49.

The term shituki means "one who is silenced" and refers to a child who knows the identity of his mother, but does not definitely know the identity of his father. He is silenced when he inquires about that matter (Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 15:12).

50.

The term asufi means "one who was gathered in" and refers to a child who knows neither the identity of his mother, nor of his father, but instead was "gathered in" from the market place (Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 15:13). Both a shituki and an asufi are mamzerim of questionable status, i.e., it is possible that they are mamzerim and it is possible that they are not. Hence, they are given precedence over a person who is definitely a mamzer [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.)].

51.

The term mamzer refers to a child who was born from an incestuous or adulterous relationship. See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, ch. 15.

52.

The term netin, means "the designated ones" and refers to the descendants of the Gibeonites, one of the seven Canaanite nations who converted en masse. Joshua decreed that they be forbidden to marry among the Jewish people. David reinforced that decree, causing it to apply even at a time when the Sanctuary is no longer standing (Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 12:22-23).

53.

I.e., as a Jew, and was educated in an environment of holiness 13 [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (ibid.)].

54.

With regard to servants, it is written (Genesis 9:25): "Cursed is Canaan. He shall be a servant of servants" (Rashi, Ketubot, loc. cit.).

55.

Who is given the highest degree of respect in terms of position [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.)].

56.

Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:2 interprets Proverbs 3:15 which states that the Torah is "Dearer than pearls" (mip'ninim) as meaning that the Torah receives precedence over the High Priest who enters the inner most chamber (lifnei ulifni'im).

57.

The Rambam mentions the teacher before the father, because that is the order of precedence. The rationale is that one's father brought one into this world, but his teacher brings him into the world to come. If, however, his father is a Torah scholar, even if he is a lesser scholar than the teacher, the father receives precedence (ibid. 5:1; Hilchot Gezeilah 12:2).

58.

The Radbaz questions why a person's father is not given precedence over a Torah scholar even if the father is unlearned. Although the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 251:9) quotes the Rambam's ruling, the Siftei Cohen 251:17 states that one's father receives precedence even when he is unlearned.

Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 9

1

In every city where Jews live, they are obligated to appoint faithful,1 men of renown as trustees of a charitable fund. They should circulate among the people from Friday to Friday and take from each person what is appropriate for him to give and the assessment made upon him. They then allocate the money from Friday to Friday, giving each poor person sufficient food for seven days. This is called the kupah.2

א

כל עיר שיש בה ישראל חייבין להעמיד מהם גבאי צדקה אנשים ידועים ונאמנים שיהיו מחזירין על העם מערב שבת לערב שבת ולוקחין מכל אחד ואחד מה שהוא ראוי ליתן ודבר הקצוב עליו והן מחלקין המעות מערב שבת לערב שבת ונותנין לכל עני ועני מזונות המספיקין לשבעה ימים וזו היא הנקרא קופה:

2

Similarly, we appoint trustees who take bread, different types of food, fruit, or money from every courtyard from those who make a spontaneous donation and divide what was collected among the poor in the evening, giving each poor person sustenance for that day. This is called the tamchui.3

ב

וכן מעמידין גבאין שלוקחין בכל יום ויום מכל חצר וחצר פת ומיני מאכל או פירות או מעות ממי שמתנדב לפי שעה ומחלקין את הגבוי לערב בין העניים ונותנין לכל עני ממנו פרנסת יומו וזהו הנקרא תמחוי:

3

We have never seen nor heard of a Jewish community that does not have a kupah for charity. A tamchui, by contrast, exists in some communities, but not in others. The common practice at present is that the trustees of the kupah circulate [among the community and collect] every day and divide [the proceeds] every Friday.4

ג

מעולם לא ראינו ולא שמענו בקהל מישראל שאין להן קופה של צדקה אבל תמחוי יש מקומות שנהגו בו ויש מקומות שלא נהגו בו והמנהג הפשוט היום שיהיו גבאי הקופה מחזירין בכל יום ומחלקין מערב שבת לערב שבת:

4

On fast days, we distribute food to the poor. Whenever there is a fast day on which the people eat and went to bed without distributing charity to the poor, they are considered as murderers.5 Concerning them, the Oral Tradition says [Isaiah 1:21]:6 "Charity is held overnight and now [you are] murderers."

When does this apply? When they did not give them bread and fruit which is [usually] eaten together with bread, e.g., dates and grapes. If, however, they delayed the delivery of money or wheat, they are not considered as murderers.7

ד

בתעניות מחלקים מזונות לעניים וכל תענית שאכלו העם ולנו ולא חלקו צדקה לעניים הרי אלו כשופכי דמים ועליהם נאמר בקבלה צדק ילין בה ועתה מרצחים במה דברים אמורים בשלא נתנו להן הפת והפירות שאוכלים בהם הפת כגון תמרים וענבים אבל אם אחרו המעות או החטים אינן כשופכי דמים:

5

[Money for] the kupah should be collected only by two people together,8 for no less than two communal trustees should ever be appointed over the financial interests of the community. It is permitted to entrust the money of the kupah to one person, but [the funds] should not be distributed by less than three trustees, because [the allocation] is comparable to a judgment concerning financial matters, since each person is given his needs for that week. [Donations for] the tamchui should be collected by three - because it does not involve a fixed amount9 - and it is distributed by three.

ה

הקופה אינה נגבית אלא בשנים שאין עושים שררה על הצבור בממון פחות משנים ומותר להאמין לאחד המעות של קופה ואינה נחלקת אלא בשלשה מפני שהיא כדיני ממונות שנותנים לכל אחד די מחסורו לשבת והתמחוי נגבה בשלשה שאינו דבר קצוב ומתחלק בשלשה:

6

[Donations for] the tamchui are collected every day. [Those for] the kupah are collected from Friday until Friday. [The gifts from] the tamchui are given [also]10 to poor people at large.11 [Those from] the kupah are given only to the poor of that city.

ו

התמחוי נגבה בכל יום והקופה מערב שבת לערב שבת והתמחוי לעניי עולם והקופה לעניי אותה העיר בלבד:

7

The inhabitants of a city have permission to give [the donations given to] the kupah to the tamchui and [those given for] the tamchui to the kupah. Similarly, they may exchange [these donations] for any communal purpose that they desire even though a stipulation to that effect was not made when they were collected.12 If there is a great sage in that city dependent on whose judgment all collections are made13 and he is the one who allocates the funds to the poor according to his assessment, he is permitted to use [these funds] for any communal purpose he sees fit.

ז

רשאין בני העיר לעשות קופה תמחוי ותמחוי קופה ולשנותן לכל מה שירצו מצרכי צבור ואע"פ שלא התנו כן בשעה שגבו ואם היה במדינה חכם גדול שהכל גובין על דעתו והוא יחלק לעניים כפי מה שיראה הרי זה רשאי לשנותן לכל מה שיראה לו מצרכי צבור:

8

Trustees of a charitable fund are not permitted to depart from each other in the marketplace14 [except for a brief time], e.g., one goes to the gate to collect and the other to a shop.15

ח

גבאי צדקה אין רשאין לפרוש זה מזה בשוק אלא כדי שיהיה זה פורש לשער וזה פורש לחנות וגובין:

9

If a charity trustee finds money in the marketplace,16 he should not put it into his own pocket,17 but instead into the wallet of the charitable fund. When he comes home, he should take it [for himself].

ט

מצא הגבאי מעות בשוק לא יתנם לתוך כיסו אלא לתוך ארנקי של צדקה וכשיגיע לביתו יטלם:

10

If a charity trustee is owed money by a colleague and [the latter] pays him in the marketplace, he should not put [this money] in his pocket, but instead into the wallet of the charitable fund.18 When he comes home, he should take it [for himself].

He should not count out the money of the charitable fund in pairs, but rather one coin at a time, lest suspicions be aroused,19 as [implied by Numbers 32:22]: "And you shall be guiltless in the eyes of God and Israel."20

י

היה הגבאי נושה בחבירו מנה ופרעו בשוק לא יתנם לתוך כיסו אלא לתוך ארנקי של צדקה וכשיגיע לביתו יטלם ולא ימנה מעות הקופה שנים שנים אלא אחד אחד מפני החשד שנאמר והייתם נקיים מה' ומישראל:

11

When the trustee of a charitable fund does not have poor people to whom to distribute the money, he may exchange the coins for dinarim.21 Another person, however, [should carry out the transaction], not he himself.22

When the trustee of a tamchui does not have poor people to whom to distribute [the food he collected], he should sell it to others,23 but not to himself.24

We do not enter into a reckoning with the trustee of a charitable fund concerning the charity he collected25 or with the treasures of the Temple regarding funds consecrated to them, as stated [in II Kings 22:7]: "No reckoning shall be made with them for the money entrusted to them because they are acting in good faith."26

יא

גבאי צדקה שאין להם עניים לחלק מצרפין המעות דינרין לאחרים אבל לא לעצמן גבאי תמחוי שאין להם עניים לחלק מוכרים לאחרים ואין מוכרים לעצמם ואין מחשבים בצדקה עם גבאי צדקה ולא בהקדש עם הגזברין שנאמר אך לא יחשב אתם הכסף הנתן על ידם כי באמונה הם עושים:

12

When a person has lived in a city for 30 days, we compel him to give charity to the kupah together with the inhabitants of the city.27 If he dwelled there for three months, we compel him to contribute to the tamchui.28 If he dwelled there for six months, we compel him to contribute to the fund used to clothe the poor of the city. If he dwelled there for nine months, we compel him to contribute to the fund used for the burial of the poor of the city and the provision of all their burial needs.29

יב

מי שישב במדינה שלשים יום כופין אותו ליתן צדקה לקופה עם בני המדינה ישב שם שלשה חדשים כופין אותו ליתן התמחוי ישב שם ששה חדשים כופין אותו ליתן צדקה בכסות שמכסים בה עניי העיר ישב שם תשעה חדשים כופין אותו ליתן צדקה לקבורה שקוברין בה את העניים ועושין להם כל צרכי קבורה:

13

When a person has enough food for two meals, it is forbidden for him to take from the tamchui.30 When he has enough food for fourteen meals, he should not take from the kupah.31 If he has 200 zuz, even if he does not invest or do business with them - or 50 zuz that he invests32 - he should not take shichachah, peah, or the tithe for the poor. If he has 200 zuz less a dinar, even though 1000 people give him at one time,33 he is permitted to take [the above]. If he has money in hand, but he owes a debt or it is under lien to his wife for her ketubah, he is permitted to take.34

יג

מי שיש לו מזון שתי סעודות אסור לו ליטול מן התמחוי היו לו מזון ארבע עשרה סעודות לא יטול מן הקופה היו לו מאתים זוז אף על פי שאינו נושא ונותן בהם [או שיש לו חמשים זוז ונושא ונותן בהם] הרי זה לא יטול לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני היו לו מאתים חסר דינר אפילו אלף נותנין לו כאחד הרי זה מותר ליקח היו בידו מעות והרי הן עליו חוב או שהיו ממושכנים לכתובת אשתו הרי זה מותר ליקח:

14

When a poor person is in need, but owns a courtyard and household utensils - even silver and golden utensils - we do not obligate him to sell his house and his personal possessions. Instead, he is permitted to accept [charity] and it is a mitzvah to give him.

When does the above apply? With regard to eating utensils, drinking utensils, clothing, bedding, and the like.35 If, however, he owns a golden comb or pestle or the like, he should sell them and buy less valuable ones.36

When does the above37 apply? Before he has descended to the level where he takes charity from people at large.38 Once he collects charity [from the community], we obligate him to sell his utensils and purchase lesser ones and then accept charity.39

יד

עני שצריך ויש לו חצר וכלי בית אפילו היו לו כלי כסף וכלי זהב אין מחייבין אותו למכור את ביתו ואת כלי תשמישו אלא מותר ליקח ומצוה ליתן לו במה דברים אמורים בכלי אכילה ושתיה ומלבוש ומצעות וכיוצא בהן אבל אם היו כלי כסף וכלי זהב כגון מגרדת או עלי וכיוצא בהן מוכרן ולוקח פחות מהן בד"א קודם שיגיע לגבות מן העם אבל אחר שגבה הצדקה מחייבים אותו למכור כליו וליקח אחרים פחותין מהם ואח"כ יטול:

15

When a man of means is in the midst of a journey from city to city, he used up all his money on the journey, and he does not have anything to eat, it is permitted for him to take leket, shichachah, pe'ah, and the tithe for the poor and he may benefit from charity. When he returns to his home,40 he is not obligated to pay, because he was poor at that time.41 To what can this be compared? To a poor person who became wealthy who is not obligated to pay back [the charity he received while poor].

טו

בעל הבית שהיה מהלך לעיר ותמו לו המעות בדרך ואין לו עתה מה יאכל הרי זה מותר ליקח לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני וליהנות מן הצדקה ולכשיגיע לביתו אינו חייב לשלם שהרי עני היה באותה שעה הא למה זה דומה לעני שהעשיר שאינו חייב לשלם:

16

When a person possesses homes, fields, and vineyards42 which were he to sell them in the winter, he would be forced to sell them cheaply,43 but were he to leave them until the summer, he would be able to sell them at their worth, we do not obligate him to sell them [in the winter]. Instead, we enable him to partake of the tithe of the poor [until he partakes of] half the worth of his property44 [so that] he will not be pressed to sell outside the [appropriate] time to sell.

טז

מי שהיו לו בתים שדות וכרמים ואם מוכרן בימי הגשמים מוכרן בזול ואם הניחן עד ימות החמה מוכרן בשויהן אין מחייבין אותו למכור אלא מאכילין אותו מעשר עני עד חצי דמיהן ולא ידחוק עצמו וימכור שלא בזמן מכירה:

17

If people at large were purchasing property at high prices,45 but he could only find people to purchase from him cheaply, because he is pressed for funds and preoccupied,46 we do not require him to sell [at a low price]. Instead, he is allowed to continue to partake of the tithe for the poor47 until he can sell his property at its worth and everyone will know that he is not under pressure to sell.

יז

היו שאר האדם לוקחין ביוקר והוא אינו מוצא שיקח ממנו אלא בזול מפני שהוא דחוק וטרוד אין מחייבין אותו למכור אלא אוכל מעשר עני והולך עד שימכור בשוה וידעו הכל שאינו דחוק למכור:

18

When funds were collected for a poor person to satisfy his lack and [the collection] exceeded his needs, the additional funds belong to him. Extra funds [donated for] the poor should be given to the poor. Extra funds [donated for the redemption of] captives should be used for that purpose.48 Extra funds [donated for the redemption of] one individual captive should be given to that captive.49 Extra funds [donated for the burial of] the deceased should be used for that purpose.50 Extra funds [donated for the burial of] an individual deceased person should be given to his heirs.51

יח

עני שגבו לו כדי להשלים מחסורו והותירו על מה שהוא צריך הרי המותר שלו ומותר עניים לעניים ומותר שבויים לשבויים מותר שבוי לאותו שבוי מותר מתים למתים מותר המת ליורשיו:

19

When a poor person gives a p'rutah to the tamchui or to the kupah, we accept it from him. If he does not give, we do not require him to give.52 If he was given new clothes and he gave them back his worn clothes, we accept them from him. If he does not give them, we do not require him to.

יט

עני שנתן פרוטה לתמחוי או פרוטה לקופה מקבלים ממנו ואם לא נתן אין מחייבין אותו ליתן נתנו לו בגדים חדשים והחזיר להן את השחקין מקבלין ממנו ואם לא נתן אין מחייבין אותו ליתן:

Footnotes
1.

See Chapter 10, the conclusion of Halachah 8.

2.

The term literally means "container" and refers to the charity box in which donations were placed and by extension, to the fund financed by those collections.

3.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Keilim 13:3), the Rambam defines this term as a pot with compartments.

4.

So that the poor will have their Sabbath needs provided for.

5.

On fast days, it was customary to distribute food to the poor after the evening service at the conclusion of the fast. Since the poor would look forward to this meal and rely on it to break their fast. If it was not provided to them, they would go to bed without food (Rashi, Sanhedrin 35a).

6.

We have translated the verse according to the meaning with which it is employed by the Rambam. In its literal context, it would be translated differently.

7.

Because regardless, this does not provide the poor with readily available food and they were not depending on it for their meal (Rashi, loc. cit.).

8.

Three individuals are not necessary for we are speaking about a specific sum levied upon each person and there is no aspect of judgment involved (Tosafot, Sanhedrin 35a).

9.

Since it does not involve a fixed amount, it is comparable to a judgment and hence, requires three individuals (the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, as quoted by the Radbaz).

10.

This bracketed addition is based on the gloss of the Radbaz who emphasizes that the kupah was intended to provide the local poor people with their essential needs, while the tamchui was intended as a supplement for them from which others were also allowed to take. From other authorities, however, it appears that the intent is that only poor people from other places are allowed to benefit from the tamchui.

11.

I.e., including poor people from other places.

12.

If, however, a stipulation was made that the funds donated be used for a specific charitable purpose, they may be used only for that purpose.

13.

The Rama (Yoreh De'ah 256:4) states that this same law applies with regard to a charity collector appointed by the community.

14.

In this way, no one will have the impression that the trustee misappropriated the money (Rashi, Bava Batra 9b).

15.

I.e., in a manner in which each remains in the other's sight (Bava Batra, loc. cit.).

16.

Which as the discoverer he is entitled to keep for himself.

17.

Lest people say that he is taking money from the charitable fund (Rashi, loc. cit.).

18.

Lest people say that he is taking money from the charitable fund (Rashi, loc. cit.).

19.

I.e., people might say that he is counting pairs and then taking one of each pair for himself (ibid.).

20.

Implied is that not only should one not transgress, but that there would not be the slightest suspicion of transgression.

21.

Coins of greater worth.

22.

Lest people think that he is profiting by the transaction.

23.

And use the proceeds for the tamchui at a later date.

24.

Lest people think that he is profiting by the transaction.

25.

I.e., we do not ask them to make a precise reckoning of the income and expenses of the charitable fund.

26.

This verse describes the practice conducted by King Josiah with regard to the money collected from the people for the renovation of the Temple. It, however, is understood as applying beyond immediate context and applying with regard to all those who oversee charitable funds.

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 257:2) quotes the Rambam's ruling. The Rama adds that, in the spirit of the verse from Numbers cited above, it is desirable for a trustee to give an account. Moreover, he continues, the above applies only with regard to those trustees who have an honorable reputation and who were appointed to their position by the community. If a trustee does not have such a reputation or he seized his position by force, he is required to make an accounting.

27.

I.e., the kupah represents the most urgent needs of a community. Hence, as soon as a person has been there for a significant time, he is required to pay the levy for that fund. The longer he stays in the community, the more communal responsibility he is required to take.

28.

The commentaries note that the standard version of Bava Batra 8b, the source for the Rambam's ruling, reverses the text and makes one responsible for the tamchui before the kupah. They explain, however, that there are versions of the text that support the Rambam's ruling. It is quoted by Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 256:5).

29.

The Radbaz and the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) emphasizes that these guidelines apply when a person has not expressed his intentions to become part of the city he is visiting. If, however, a visitor decides to become a permanent resident in a city, he immediately becomes responsible for all charitable levies.

30.

I.e., since he has enough food for the day, he should not take from the fund whose purpose is to provide people with their food for the day [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Pe'ah 8:7)].

31.

I.e., since he has enough food for the week, he should not take from the fund whose purpose is to provide people with their food for the week (ibid.).

32.

For 50 zuz which one invests and uses to earn income is more desirable than 200 that do not provide one with income.

33.

From charity, i.e., since he is deemed poor, he is allowed to take charity, even if doing so will lift him far above the poverty level.

34.

For in these instances, it is as if the money he possesses is not his own.

35.

I.e., functional utensils, used in his day-to-day life. Since he has become used to valuable utensils, he will not feel comfortable using lesser ones (Ketubot 68a).

36.

Since these utensils are used for simple purposes, there is no difficulty in using less valuable ones.

37.

The leniency of the first clause which allows the person to maintain possession of his property.

38.

I.e., he is given charity by individuals, but not by the community at large [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 253:1)].

39.

Because it is improper that a person of some means should receive communal funds and, in this way, reduce the amount given to poor people who have no resources whatsoever (the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, Pe'ah 8:8).

After quoting the Rambam's ruling, the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.:2) states: "There are opinions that maintain that the above measures applied only in their era. In the present time, by contrast, a person may accept [charity] until he has sufficient principle [to invest] so that he and his family can sustain themselves from the profits. These are words of reason."

40.

And has money at hand again.

41.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Pe'ah 5:4), the Rambam writes that it is pious behavior to repay the money one received from charity.

42.

This refers to a home that he does not dwell in since, as stated in Halachah 14, we do not obligate him to sell his home.

43.

For market conditions would dictate lower prices at that time, since the purchaser will not begin to benefit from the fields and vineyards until the spring (Rashi, Bava Kama 7a).

44.

We do not give him more than that amount, for a person will never lose more than half the value of his property by selling it at an unsuitable time (Radbaz).

The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 253:3) quotes the Rambam's ruling. The Tur and the Rama interpret the passage from Bava Kama differently. According to their perspective, we enable him to receive charity until he finds someone who is willing to purchase his property at half price.

45.

If, however, property prices at large are depressed, we do not allow one to gain time by benefiting from charity (Siftei Cohen 253:7).

46.

I.e., since people at large are aware of his plight, they would only offer him low prices in an attempt to pressure him to sell.

47.

And thus he will not be in immediate need of funds.

48.

I.e., to redeem other captives in the future.

49.

To use for the rehabilitation of his personal situation.

50.

I.e., to bury other deceased individuals in the future.

51.

The intent is not that the deceased acquired the money and his heirs inherited it from him, for he never formally acquired it. Instead, since there was a certain measure of embarrassment involved for the deceased in having the money raised, he is willing to grant the financial benefit for that embarrassment to his heirs (Sanhedrin 48a).

After quoting these laws, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 253:6) states: "If the communal officers see that there is an immediate need and they wish to change [the objective to which charity is given], they have that authority."

52.

Even though, as stated in Chapter 7, Halachah 5, even a poor person who derives his livelihood from charity is obligated to give charity, that obligation is his own responsibility. The community does not compel him to give (Radbaz). Alternatively, that obligation applies only when he has enough for his livelihood. If he does not have enough, he is not required to give (Siftei Cohen 253:11).

Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 10

1

We are obligated to be careful with regard to the mitzvah of charity to a greater extent than all [other] positive commandments,1 because charity is an identifying mark for a righteous person, a descendant of Abraham,2 our patriarch, as [Genesis 18:19] states: "I have known him, because he commands his children... to perform charity." The throne of Israel will not be established, nor will the true faith stand except through charity, as [Isaiah 54:14] states: "You shall be established through righteousness." And Israel will be redeemed solely through charity, as [ibid. 1:27] states: "Zion will be redeemed through judgment and those who return to her through charity."

א

חייבין אנו להזהר במצות צדקה יותר מכל מצות עשה שהצדקה סימן לצדיק זרע אברהם אבינו שנאמר כי ידעתיו למען אשר יצוה את בניו לעשות צדקה ואין כסא ישראל מתכונן ודת האמת עומדת אלא בצדקה שנאמר בצדקה תכונני ואין ישראל נגאלין אלא בצדקה שנאמר ציון במשפט תפדה ושביה בצדקה:

2

A person will never become impoverished from giving charity. No harm nor damage will ever be caused because of charity,3 as [ibid. 32:17] states: "And the deed of charity is peace." Everyone who is merciful evokes mercy from others, as [Deuteronomy 13:18] states: "And He shall grant you mercy and shower mercy upon you and multiply you." Whenever a person is cruel and does not show mercy, his lineage is suspect,4 for cruelty is found only among the gentiles, as [Jeremiah] 3:42] states: "They are cruel and will not show mercy."5

The entire Jewish people and all those who attach themselves to them are as brothers, as [Deuteronomy 14:1] states: "You are children unto God your Lord." And if a brother will not show mercy to a brother, who will show mercy to them? To whom do the poor of Israel lift up their eyes? To the gentiles who hate them and pursue them? Behold their eyes are pointed to their brethren alone.

ב

לעולם אין אדם מעני מן הצדקה ואין דבר רע ולא היזק נגלל בשביל הצדקה שנאמר והיה מעשה הצדקה שלום כל המרחם מרחמין עליו שנאמר ונתן לך רחמים ורחמך והרבך וכל מי שהוא אכזרי ואינו מרחם יש לחוש ליחסו שאין האכזריות מצויה אלא בעכו"ם שנאמר אכזרי המה ולא ירחמו וכל ישראל והנלוה עליהם כאחים הם שנאמר בנים אתם לה' אלהיכם ואם לא ירחם האח על האח מי ירחם עליו ולמי עניי ישראל נושאין עיניהן הלעכו"ם ששונאין אותו ורודפים אחריהן הא אין עיניהן תלויות אלא לאחיהן:

3

Anyone who turns his eyes away from [giving] charity is described as being "rebellious" like someone who worships false divinities is described as "rebellious, as [Deuteronomy 13:14] states with regard to the worship of false divinities: "Rebellious men went out." And with regard to a person who turns his eyes away from [giving] charity, [ibid. 15:9] states: "Be careful, lest a rebellious thought arise in your heart." Such a person is also called "wicked," as [Proverbs 12:10] states: "The mercies of the wicked are cruel." And he is called a sinner, as [Deuteronomy, loc. cit.,] states: "And he shall cry out against you to God and you will be deemed as sinning." The Holy One, blessed be He, is close to the outcry of the poor, as it is written:6 "You hear the outcry of the poor." Therefore one must be careful with regard to their outcry, for a covenant has been established with them, as [Exodus 22:26] states: "When he will cry out to Me, I will listen, for I am compassionate."

ג

כל המעלים עיניו מן הצדקה הרי זה נקרא בליעל כמו שנקרא עובד עכו"ם בליעל ובעכו"ם הוא אומר יצאו אנשים בני בליעל ובמעלים עיניו מן הצדקה הוא אומר השמר לך פן יהיה דבר עם לבבך בליעל ונקרא רשע שנאמר ורחמי רשעים אכזרי ונקרא חוטא שנאמר וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא והקב"ה קרוב לשועת עניים שנאמר שועת עניים אתה תשמע לפיכך צריך להזהר בצעקתם שהרי ברית כרותה להם שנאמר והיה כי יצעק אלי ושמעתי כי חנון אני:

4

Whenever a person gives charity to a poor person with an unpleasant countenance and with his face buried in the earth, he loses and destroys his merit7even if he gives him 1000 gold pieces. Instead, he should give him with a pleasant countenance and with happiness, commiserating with him about his troubles, as [Job 30:25] states: "Did I not weep for those who face difficult times; did not my soul feel sorrow for the destitute?" And he should speak to him words of sympathy and comfort, as [ibid. 29:13] states: "I would bring joy to a widow's heart."

ד

כל הנותן צדקה לעני בסבר פנים רעות ופניו כבושות בקרקע אפילו נתן לו אלף זהובים אבד זכותו והפסידה אלא נותן לו בסבר פנים יפות ובשמחה ומתאונן עמו על צרתו שנאמר אם לא בכיתי לקשה יום עגמה נפשי לאביון ומדבר לו דברי תחנונים ונחומים שנאמר ולב אלמנה ארנין:

5

If a poor person asks one for a donation and he has nothing to give him, he should conciliate him with words.8 It is forbidden to scold a poor person or to raise one's voice against him while shouting, because his heart is broken and crushed, and [Psalms 51:19] states: "God will not scorn a broken and crushed heart." And [Isaiah 57:15 describes as Divine the attribute of] "reviv[ing] the spirit of the lowly and revitalize[ing] the heart of the crushed." Woe unto he who shames the poor, woe be he! Instead, one should be like a father to him, both in mercies and in words, as [Job 29:16] states: "I am a father to the destitute."

ה

שאל העני ממך ואין בידך כלום ליתן לו פייסהו בדברים ואסור לגעור בעני או להגביה קולו עליו בצעקה מפני שלבו נשבר ונדכא והרי הוא אומר לב נשבר ונדכה אלהים לא תבזה ואומר להחיות רוח שפלים ולהחיות לב נדכאים ואוי למי שהכלים את העני אוי לו אלא יהיה לו כאב בין ברחמים בין בדברים שנאמר אב אנכי לאביונים:

6

A person who compels others to give charity and motivates them to do so receives a greater reward than the person who actually gives, as [alluded to by Isaiah 32:17]: "And the deed9 of charity is peace." With regard to the collectors of charity and the like can be applied [the words of praise, Daniel 12:3]: "Those who bring merit to the many are like the stars."

ו

הכופה אחרים ליתן צדקה ומעשה אותן שכרו גדול משכר הנותן שנאמר והיה מעשה הצדקה שלום ועל גבאי צדקה וכיוצא בהם אומר ומצדיקי הרבים ככוכבים:

7

There are eight levels in charity, each level surpassing the other. The highest level beyond which there is none is a person who supports a Jew who has fallen into poverty [by] giving him a present or a loan, entering into partnership with him,10 or finding him work so that his hand will be fortified so that he will not have to ask others [for alms].11 Concerning this [Leviticus 25:35] states: "You shall support him, the stranger, the resident, and he shall live among you." Implied is that you should support him before he falls and becomes needy.

ז

שמנה מעלות יש בצדקה זו למעלה מזו מעלה גדולה שאין למעלה ממנה זה המחזיק ביד ישראל שמך ונותן לו מתנה או הלואה או עושה עמו שותפות או ממציא לו מלאכה כדי לחזק את ידו עד שלא יצטרך לבריות לשאול ועל זה נאמר והחזקת בו גר ותושב וחי עמך כלומר החזק בו עד שלא יפול ויצטרך:

8

A lower [level] than this is one who gives charity to the poor without knowing to whom he gave and without the poor person knowing from whom he received. For this is an observance of the mitzvah for its sake alone.12 This [type of giving was] exemplified by the secret chamber that existed in the Temple. The righteous would make donations there in secret and poor people of distinguished lineage would derive their livelihood from it in secret.

A level close to this is giving to a charity fund.13 A person should not give to a charity fund unless he knows that the person managing it is faithful, wise, and capable of administering it in a proper manner as Rebbe Chananya ben Tradyon was.14

ח

פחות מזה הנותן צדקה לעניים ולא ידע למי נתן ולא ידע העני ממי לקח שהרי זו מצוה לשמה כגון לשכת חשאים שהיתה במקדש שהיו הצדיקים נותנין בה בחשאי והעניים בני טובים מתפרנסין ממנה בחשאי וקרוב לזה הנותן לתוך קופה של צדקה ולא יתן אדם לתוך קופה של צדקה אא"כ יודע שהממונה נאמן וחכם ויודע להנהיג כשורה כר' חנניה בן תרדיון:

9

A lower level than that is an instance when the giver knows to whom he is giving, but the poor person does not know from whom he received. An example of this were the great Sages who would go in secret and throw money into the doorways of the poor.15 This is a worthy way of giving charity and it is a good quality [to express] if the trustees of the charitable fund are not conducting themselves appropriately. 16

ט

פחות מזה שידע הנותן למי יתן ולא ידע העני ממי לקח כגון גדולי החכמים שהיו הולכין בסתר ומשליכין המעות בפתחי העניים וכזה ראוי לעשות ומעלה טובה היא אם אין הממונין בצדקה נוהגין כשורה:

10

A lower level than that is an instance when the poor person knows from whom he took, but the donor does not know to whom he gave. An example of this were the great Sages who would bundle coins in a sheet and hang them over their shoulders and the poor would come and take them so that they would not be embarrassed.17

י

פחות מזה שידע העני ממי נטל ולא ידע הנותן כגון גדולי החכמים שהיו צוררים המעות בסדיניהן ומפשילין לאחוריהן ובאין העניים ונוטלין כדי שלא יהיה להן בושה:

11

A lower level than that is giving [the poor person] in his hand before he asks.18

יא

פחות מזה שיתן לו בידו קודם שישאל:

12

A lower level than that is giving him after he asks.

יב

פחות מזה שיתן לו אחר שישאל:

13

A lower level than this is giving him less than what is appropriate, but with a pleasant countenance.

יג

פחות מזה שיתן לו פחות מן הראוי בסבר פנים יפות:

14

A lower level than that is giving him with sadness.

יד

פחות מזה שיתן לו בעצב:

15

Great sages would give a p'rutah to a poor person19 before every prayer service20 and then they would pray,21 as [implied by Psalms 17:15]: "I will see Your countenance in righteousness."22

טו

גדולי החכמים היו נותנין פרוטה לעני קודם כל תפלה ואחר כך מתפללין שנאמר אני בצדק אחזה פניך:

16

A person who gives money to his sons and daughters who are past the age of majority23 and whom he is not obligated to support in order to teach the males Torah and to direct the females in a course of upright path so that they will not become objects of derision and similarly one who gives food to his father and his mother24 is included among [those who give] charity.25 Indeed, it is a very important charity, for precedence is established on one's degree of closeness.26

Anyone who gives food and drink to the poor and orphans at his table,27he will call out to God and [God] will answer him and he will derive pleasure from Him, as [Isaiah 58:9] states: "Then you will call out and God will answer."28

טז

הנותן מזונות לבניו ולבנותיו הגדולים שאינו חייב במזונותיהן כדי ללמד הזכרים תורה ולהנהיג הבנות בדרך ישרה ולא יהיו מבוזות וכן הנותן מזונות לאביו ולאמו הרי זה בכלל הצדקה וצדקה גדולה היא שהקרוב קודם וכל המאכיל ומשקה עניים ויתומים על שלחנו הרי זה קורא אל ה' ויענהו ומתענג שנאמר אז תקרא וה' יענה:

17

Our Sages commanded29 that the poor and orphans should be members of a person's household rather than servants.30 This is preferable for him to employ these people and thus enable the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob benefit from his possessions rather than the descendants of Cham. Whoever increases [the number of] servants in his possession adds sin and transgression to the world every day.31 [Conversely,] if the poor are members of one's household, at every hour he adds merits and mitzvot.

יז

צוו חכמים שיהיו בני ביתו של אדם עניים ויתומים במקום העבדים מוטב לו להשתמש באלו ויהנו בני אברהם יצחק ויעקב מנכסיו ולא יהנו בהם זרע חם שכל המרבה עבדים בכל יום ויום מוסיף חטא ועון בעולם ואם יהיו עניים בני ביתו בכל שעה ושעה מוסיף זכיות ומצות:

18

A person should always construct himself and bear hardship rather than appeal to people at large and make himself a burden on the community. Our Sages commanded, saying:32 "Make your Sabbaths as weekdays,33 and do not appeal to people at large." Even a distinguished sage who becomes poor should involve himself in a profession - even a degrading one - rather than appeal to people at large. It is preferable for a person to skin the hide of animal carcasses,34 rather than tell people: "I am a great sage..." or "I am a priest, grant me sustenance." Our Sages commanded conducting oneself in such a manner.35

There were great sages who were woodchoppers,36 porters of beams,37 water-carriers for gardens,38 and iron-smelters and makers of charcoal,39 but they did not ask anything from the community, nor did they accept gifts that were given to them.

יח

לעולם ידחוק אדם עצמו ויתגלגל בצער ואל יצטרך לבריות ואל ישליך עצמו על הצבור וכן צוו חכמים ואמרו עשה שבתך חול ואל תצטרך לבריות ואפילו היה חכם ומכובד והעני יעסוק באומנות ואפילו באומנות מנוולת ולא יצטרך לבריות מוטב לפשוט עור בהמות נבלות ולא יאמר לעם חכם גדול אני כהן אני פרנסוני ובכך צוו חכמים גדולי החכמים היו מהם חוטבי עצים ונושאי הקורות ושואבי מים לגנות ועושי הברזל והפחמים ולא שאלו מן הצבור ולא קיבלו מהם כשנתנו להם:

19

Any person who does not need to take [charity] and deceives the people and takes will not reach old age and die until he requires assistance from people at large. He is among those of whom it is said [Jeremiah 17:5]: "Cursed be a person who trusts in mortals."

[Conversely,] anyone who needs to take [charity] and cannot exist unless he takes, e.g., an elderly man, sick, or beset by afflictions, but is proud and does not take is considered as a murderer. He is liable for his soul and all that he has earned through his hardship40 is sin and guilt.41 But anyone who needs to take [charity], but causes himself affliction and temporarily constrains himself and lives a life of difficulty so that he will not overburden the community will not reach old age and die before he provides sustenance for others from his own means. Concerning such a person and those like him, it is stated [ibid.:7]: Blessed be a person who trusts in God."

יט

כל מי שאינו צריך ליטול ומרמה את העם ונוטל אינו מת מן הזקנה עד שיצטרך לבריות והרי הוא בכלל ארור הגבר אשר יבטח באדם וכל מי שצריך ליטול ואינו יכול לחיות אלא אם כן נוטל כגון זקן או חולה או בעל יסורין ומגיס דעתו ואינו נוטל הרי זה שופך דמים ומתחייב בנפשו ואין לו בצערו אלא חטאות ואשמות וכל מי שצריך ליטול וציער ודחק את השעה וחיה חיי צער כדי שלא יטריח על הצבור אינו מת מן הזקנה עד שיפרנס אחרים משלו ועליו ועל כל כיוצא בזה נאמר ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה':

Blessed be the Merciful One who grants assistance.

סליקו להו הלכות מתנות עניים בס"ד:

Footnotes
1.

Similarly, Bava Batra 9a states that charity is equivalent to all the mitzvot.

2.

Similarly, Yevamot 79a mentions deeds of kindness as one of the three distinguishing signs of the Jewish people.

3.

On the contrary, it leads to blessing, as Proverbs 28:27 states: "He who gives to the poor will not lack."

4.

Beitzah 32b states: "Whenever one does not show mercy to the created beings, it can be recognized that he is not from the seed of Abraham our patriarch."

5.

See also the conclusion of Hilchot Avadim.

6.

There is no verse that fits the wording the Rambam quotes. Commentaries have notes that Job 34:28 reads: "He hears the cry of the poor" and Psalms 22:25 states: "And when he cries out to Him, He will listen."

7.

Chagigah 5a states that it is preferable for one not to give charity at all than for him to give in an undesirable manner."

8.

Bava Batra 9b states: "A person who gives a p'rutah to a poor person is granted six blessings, while one who conciliates with him is granted eleven."

The simple meaning of this instruction is to share words of comfort with the poor person, for this can be worth more than money to him. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 249:4), however, interprets it as meaning that one should excuse himself saying that he desires to give, but does not have the means.

9.

The word ma'aseh translated as "work" can also be interpreted as meaning "compel." In that context, the verse can be interpreted as praise for a person who compels a colleague to give charity.

10.

The Siftei Cohen 249:7 states that this is the most preferable way of helping a person.

11.

Before the person has fallen into poverty, his financial position is still viable. Hopefully, with a little bit of assistance, he can rectify his situation and return to prosperity. In that vein, the Sifra (Behar, sec. v) compares it to a person supporting a colleague who is stumbling. Before he falls, one person can hold him up. Once he falls, even five people cannot raise him. Moreover, if a person is given gifts in this way, his self-esteem is not impaired and he does not develop a negative self-image.

12.

I.e., since neither the donor nor the recipient knows the other's identity, there can be no ulterior motive involved.

13.

For in this instance, as well, the person does not know to whom his donation is being given and the recipient does not know who made the donation.

14.

Avodah Zarah 17b gives an example of Rabbi Chananya's faithfulness. He was collecting both for the ordinary charity fund and for the special charity fund for Purim and the money from the two collections became mixed together. To make sure that the poor were not short-changed, he compensated for any possible discrepancy from his own funds.

Tosafot, Bava Batra 10b, states that we do not expect every charity collector to be as righteous as Rabbi Chananya ben Tradyon, but we do expect that he approximate his faithfulness.

15.

Ketubot 67b relates that Mar Ukva would throw a certain amount of money under a poor neighbor's doorstep every day. One day, the poor man desired to see who his benefactor was and when he saw the money, he ran out to the street. Mar Ukva saw him coming and fled, to avoid detection, he entered an oven which though still hot, no longer had fire. When asked to explain his behavior, he said: "It is preferable for a person to cast himself into an oven than to embarrass a colleague in public."

16.

In such an instance, it would not be desirable for a person to distribute his charity himself rather than give it to the charitable fund.

17.

Ketubot, loc. cit., relates that Rabbi Abba would conduct himself in this manner.

18.

In this way, at least the poor person is not humbled by having to ask for the alms.

19.

Giving to a charity box is also sufficient to fulfill this purpose.

20.

According to Kabbalah, charity should not be given before the evening service unless a poor person actually asks for a donation.

21.

Bava Batra 10a relates that Rabbi Eliezer would conduct himself in this manner.

22.

Tzedek, "righteousness," and tzedakah, "charity," share the same root.

23.

Strictly speaking, this refers to children above the age of six (Hilchot Ishut 12:14), for in the Talmudic period, children were able to fend for themselves from that age onward and the parents were no longer obligated to support them. (Today, there are many authorities who require parents to support their children until much more advanced ages.) Ketubot 50a applies the verse (Psalms 106:3): "Happy is he... who performs charity at all times" to a person who supports children of this age.

24.

The mitzvah of honoring one's parents does not require a person to tap his own resources to support them. Instead, he must feed them and clothe them from their resources (Hilchot Mamrim 6:3). The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 251:3) qualifies that this proviso applies only when the parents are in need.

25.

Hence a person may use money that he tithes (ma'aser) for this purpose.

26.

See Chapter 7, Halachah 13, above.

27.

I.e., not only does he provide them with food, he makes them feel part of his household.

28.

The passage from Isaiah concludes: "Then you will delight in God."

29.

Avot 1:5. In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam mentions the concepts stated here.

30.

The Tur (Yoreh De'ah 251) states that this is considered as giving charity.

31.

In that vein, Avot 2:7 states: "One who increases servants increases theft; one who increases maidservants increases lewdness."

32.

Pesachim 112a.

33.

I.e., restrict your spending even in areas in which the Torah advises that men of means should be lavish. See Hilchot Shabbat 30:7.

34.

An unpleasant and demeaning task.

35.

In general, the Rambam appreciated the positive dimension of earning one's livelihood through one's own efforts and not relying on others. In particular, he felt that this was important for Torah scholars, because a) it is forbidden to derive material benefit from Torah study, and b) by doing so, he disgraces the Torah in the eyes of people at large. Thus he writes (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10):

Anyone who comes to the conclusion that he should involve himself in Torah study without doing work and derive his livelihood from charity, desecrates [God's] name, dishonors the Torah, extinguishes the light of faith, brings evil upon himself, and forfeits the life of the world to come, for it is forbidden to derive benefit from the words of Torah in this world.

Our Sages declared: 'Whoever benefits from the words of Torah forfeits his life in the world.' Also, they commanded and declared: 'Do not make them a crown to magnify oneself, nor an axe to chop with.' Also, they commanded: "Love work and despise Rabbinic positions" and "All Torah that is not accompanied by work will eventually be nullified and will lead to sin." Ultimately, such a person will steal from others.

See also Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:7 and the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Avot 4:7).

36.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam mentions that Hillel earned his livelihood in this manner. It must be noted that although Yoma 35b describes Hillel as having earned a meager livelihood through physical work, neither it, nor any other known source, explicitly states that Hillel would chop wood.

37.

Gittin 67b states that Rav Sheshet would haul beams. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), where he elaborates on the labor performed by the sages. He apparently had a slightly different version of the Talmud, for he refers to different sages than those mentioned in the standard published text.

38.

Ketubot 105a mentions that Rav Huna was a water-carrier.

39.

Berachot 28b states that Rabbi Yehoshua would work in this capacity.

40.

I.e., the hardship he endured by not accepting charity.

41.

For he should have accepted the charity so that he could live his life in an ordinary manner. If it is a person's lot to receive his livelihood from charity, he should not show false pride and refrain from doing so.

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in the one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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