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ב"ה

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Matnot Aniyim - Chapter 10

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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

חַיָּבִין אָנוּ לְהִזָּהֵר בְּמִצְוַת צְדָקָה יוֹתֵר מִכָּל מִצְוֹת עֲשֵׂה. שֶׁהַצְּדָקָה סִימָן לַצַּדִּיק זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית יח יט) "כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו" (בראשית יח יט) "לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה". וְאֵין כִּסֵּא יִשְׂרָאֵל מִתְכּוֹנֵן וְדַת הָאֱמֶת עוֹמֶדֶת אֶלָּא בִּצְדָקָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נד יד) "בִּצְדָקָה תִּכּוֹנָנִי". וְאֵין יִשְׂרָאֵל נִגְאָלִין אֶלָּא בִּצְדָקָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה א כז) "צִיּוֹן בְּמִשְׁפָּט תִּפָּדֶה וְשָׁבֶיהָ בִּצְדָקָה":

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

לְעוֹלָם אֵין אָדָם מַעֲנִי מִן הַצְּדָקָה וְאֵין דָּבָר רַע וְלֹא הֶזֵּק נִגְלָל בִּשְׁבִיל הַצְּדָקָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה לב יז) "וְהָיָה מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה שָׁלוֹם." כָּל הַמְרַחֵם מְרַחֲמִין עָלָיו שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יג יח) "וְנָתַן לְךָ רַחֲמִים וְרִחַמְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ". וְכָל מִי שֶׁהוּא אַכְזָרִי וְאֵינוֹ מְרַחֵם יֵשׁ לָחוּשׁ לְיַחֲסוֹ. שֶׁאֵין הָאַכְזָרִיּוּת מְצוּיָה אֶלָּא בְּעַכּוּ''ם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה נ מב) "אַכְזָרִי הֵמָּה וְלֹא יְרַחֵמוּ". וְכָל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהַנִּלְוֶה עֲלֵיהֶם כְּאַחִים הֵם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יד א) "בָּנִים אַתֶּם לַה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם" וְאִם לֹא יְרַחֵם הָאָח עַל הָאָח מִי יְרַחֵם עָלָיו. וּלְמִי עֲנִיֵּי יִשְׂרָאֵל נוֹשְׂאִין עֵינֵיהֶן. הֲלְעַכּוּ''ם שֶׁשּׂוֹנְאִין אוֹתָן וְרוֹדְפִים אַחֲרֵיהֶן. הָא אֵין עֵינֵיהֶן תְּלוּיוֹת אֶלָּא לַאֲחֵיהֶן:

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

כָּל הַמַּעֲלִים עֵינָיו מִן הַצְּדָקָה הֲרֵי זֶה נִקְרָא בְּלִיַּעַל כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּקְרָא עוֹבֵד עַכּוּ''ם בְּלִיַּעַל. וּבְעַכּוּ''ם הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים יג יד) "יָצְאוּ אֲנָשִׁים בְּנֵי בְלִיַּעַל" וּבְמַעֲלִים עֵינָיו מִן הַצְּדָקָה הוּא אוֹמֵר (דברים טו ט) "הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן יִהְיֶה דָבָר עִם לְבָבְךָ בְלִיַּעַל". וְנִקְרָא רָשָׁע שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי יב י) "וְרַחֲמֵי רְשָׁעִים אַכְזָרִי". וְנִקְרָא חוֹטֵא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טו ט) "וְקָרָא עָלֶיךָ אֶל ה' וְהָיָה בְךָ חֵטְא". וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא קָרוֹב לְשַׁוְעַת עֲנִיִּים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר שַׁוְעַת עֲנִיִּים אַתָּה תִשְׁמַע. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ לְהִזָּהֵר בְּצַעֲקָתָם שֶׁהֲרֵי בְּרִית כְּרוּתָה לָהֶם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כב כו) "וְהָיָה כִּי יִצְעַק אֵלַי וְשָׁמַעְתִּי כִּי חַנּוּן אָנִי":

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 merit7 even 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

כָּל הַנּוֹתֵן צְדָקָה לְעָנִי בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים רָעוֹת וּפָנָיו כְּבוּשׁוֹת בַּקַּרְקַע אֲפִלּוּ נָתַן לוֹ אֶלֶף זְהוּבִים אִבֵּד זְכוּתוֹ וְהִפְסִידָהּ. אֶלָּא נוֹתֵן לוֹ בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת וּבְשִׂמְחָה וּמִתְאוֹנֵן עִמּוֹ עַל צָרָתוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב ל כה) "אִם לֹא בָכִיתִי לִקְשֵׁה יוֹם עָגְמָה נַפְשִׁי לָאֶבְיוֹן". וּמְדַבֵּר לוֹ דִּבְרֵי תַּחֲנוּנִים וְנִחוּמִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב כט יג) "וְלֵב אַלְמָנָה אַרְנִן":

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

שָׁאַל הֶעָנִי מִמְּךָ וְאֵין בְּיָדְךָ כְּלוּם לִתֵּן לוֹ פַּיְּסֵהוּ בִּדְבָרִים. וְאָסוּר לִגְעֹר בְּעָנִי אוֹ לְהַגְבִּיהַּ קוֹלוֹ עָלָיו בִּצְעָקָה. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלִּבּוֹ נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּא וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (תהילים נא יט) "לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹהִים לֹא תִבְזֶה". וְאוֹמֵר (ישעיה נז טו) "לְהַחֲיוֹת רוּחַ שְׁפָלִים וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לֵב נִדְכָּאִים". וְאוֹי לְמִי שֶׁהִכְלִים אֶת הֶעָנִי אוֹי לוֹ. אֶלָּא יִהְיֶה לוֹ כְּאָב בֵּין בְּרַחֲמִים בֵּין בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איוב כט טז) "אָב אָנֹכִי לָאֶבְיוֹנִים":

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

הַכּוֹפֶה אֲחֵרִים לִתֵּן צְדָקָה וּמְעַשֶּׂה אוֹתָן שְׂכָרוֹ גָּדוֹל מִשְּׂכַר הַנּוֹתֵן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה לב יז) "וְהָיָה מַעֲשֵׂה הַצְּדָקָה שָׁלוֹם". וְעַל גַּבָּאֵי צְדָקָה וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶם אוֹמֵר (דניאל יב ג) "וּמַצְדִּיקֵי הָרַבִּים כַּכּוֹכָבִים":

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

שְׁמוֹנֶה מַעֲלוֹת יֵשׁ בַּצְּדָקָה זוֹ לְמַעְלָה מִזּוֹ. מַעֲלָה גְּדוֹלָה שֶׁאֵין לְמַעְלָה מִמֶּנָּה זֶה הַמַּחֲזִיק בְּיַד יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁמָּךְ וְנוֹתֵן לוֹ מַתָּנָה אוֹ הַלְוָאָה אוֹ עוֹשֶׂה עִמּוֹ שֻׁתָּפוּת אוֹ מַמְצִיא לוֹ מְלָאכָה כְּדֵי לְחַזֵּק אֶת יָדוֹ עַד שֶׁלֹּא יִצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת לִשְׁאל. וְעַל זֶה נֶאֱמַר (ויקרא כה לה) "וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב וָחַי עִמָּךְ" כְּלוֹמַר הַחֲזֵק בּוֹ עַד שֶׁלֹּא יִפּל וְיִצְטָרֵךְ:

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

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה הַנּוֹתֵן צְדָקָה לָעֲנִיִּים וְלֹא יָדַע לְמִי נָתַן וְלֹא יָדַע הֶעָנִי מִמִּי לָקַח. שֶׁהֲרֵי זוֹ מִצְוָה לִשְׁמָהּ. כְּגוֹן לִשְׁכַּת חֲשָׁאִים שֶׁהָיְתָה בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ. שֶׁהָיוּ הַצַּדִּיקִים נוֹתְנִין בָּהּ בַּחֲשַׁאי וְהָעֲנִיִּים בְּנֵי טוֹבִים מִתְפַּרְנְסִין מִמֶּנָּה בַּחֲשַׁאי. וְקָרוֹב לָזֶה הַנּוֹתֵן לְתוֹךְ קֻפָּה שֶׁל צְדָקָה. וְלֹא יִתֵּן אָדָם לְתוֹךְ קֻפָּה שֶׁל צְדָקָה אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁהַמְמֻנֶּה נֶאֱמָן וְחָכָם וְיוֹדֵעַ לְהַנְהִיג כַּשּׁוּרָה כְּרַבִּי חֲנַנְיָה בֶּן תְּרַדְיוֹן:

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

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה שֶׁיֵּדַע הַנּוֹתֵן לְמִי יִתֵּן וְלֹא יֵדַע הֶעָנִי מִמִּי לָקַח. כְּגוֹן גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁהָיוּ הוֹלְכִין בַּסֵּתֶר וּמַשְׁלִיכִין הַמָּעוֹת בְּפִתְחֵי הָעֲנִיִּים. וְכָזֶה רָאוּי לַעֲשׂוֹת וּמַעֲלָה טוֹבָה הִיא אִם אֵין הַמְמֻנִּין בִּצְדָקָה נוֹהֲגִין כַּשּׁוּרָה:

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

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה שֶׁיֵּדַע הֶעָנִי מִמִּי נָטַל וְלֹא יֵדַע הַנּוֹתֵן. כְּגוֹן גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים שֶׁהָיוּ צוֹרְרִים הַמָּעוֹת בִּסְדִינֵיהֶן וּמַפְשִׁילִין לַאֲחוֹרֵיהֶן וּבָאִין הָעֲנִיִּים וְנוֹטְלִין כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה לָהֶן בּוּשָׁה:

11

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

יא

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה שֶׁיִּתֵּן לוֹ בְּיָדוֹ קֹדֶם שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל:

12

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

יב

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה שֶׁיִּתֵּן לוֹ אַחַר שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל:

13

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

יג

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה שֶׁיִּתֵּן לוֹ פָּחוֹת מִן הָרָאוּי בְּסֵבֶר פָּנִים יָפוֹת:

14

A lower level than that is giving him with sadness.

יד

פָּחוֹת מִזֶּה שֶׁיִּתֵּן לוֹ בְּעֶצֶב:

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

גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים הָיוּ נוֹתְנִין פְּרוּטָה לְעָנִי קֹדֶם כָּל תְּפִלָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ מִתְפַּלְּלִין שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים יז טו) "אֲנִי בְּצֶדֶק אֶחֱזֶה פָנֶיךָ":

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

הַנּוֹתֵן מְזוֹנוֹת לְבָנָיו וְלִבְנוֹתָיו הַגְּדוֹלִים שֶׁאֵינוֹ חַיָּב בִּמְזוֹנוֹתֵיהֶן כְּדֵי לְלַמֵּד הַזְּכָרִים תּוֹרָה וּלְהַנְהִיג הַבָּנוֹת בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה וְלֹא יִהְיוּ מְבֻזּוֹת. וְכֵן הַנּוֹתֵן מְזוֹנוֹת לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה בִּכְלַל הַצְּדָקָה. וּצְדָקָה גְּדוֹלָה הִיא שֶׁהַקָּרוֹב קוֹדֵם. וְכָל הַמַּאֲכִיל וּמַשְׁקֶה עֲנִיִּים וִיתוֹמִים עַל שֻׁלְחָנוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה קוֹרֵא אֶל ה' וְיַעֲנֵהוּ וּמִתְעַנֵּג שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נח ט) "אָז תִּקְרָא וַה' יַעֲנֶה":

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 to 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

צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים שֶׁיִּהְיוּ בְּנֵי בֵּיתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם עֲנִיִּים וִיתוֹמִים בִּמְקוֹם הָעֲבָדִים. מוּטָב לוֹ לְהִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בְּאֵלּוּ וְיֵהָנוּ בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקֹב מִנְּכָסָיו וְלֹא יֵהָנוּ בָּהֶם זֶרַע חָם. שֶׁכָּל הַמַּרְבֶּה עֲבָדִים בְּכָל יוֹם וָיוֹם מוֹסִיף חֵטְא וְעָוֹן בָּעוֹלָם. וְאִם יִהְיוּ עֲנִיִּים בְּנֵי בֵּיתוֹ בְּכָל שָׁעָה וְשָׁעָה מוֹסִיף זְכֻיּוֹת וּמִצְוֹת:

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

לְעוֹלָם יִדְחֹק אָדָם עַצְמוֹ וְיִתְגַּלְגֵּל בְּצַעַר וְאַל יִצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת וְאַל יַשְׁלִיךְ עַצְמוֹ עַל הַצִּבּוּר. וְכֵן צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים וְאָמְרוּ עֲשֵׂה שַׁבַּתְּךָ חֹל וְאַל תִּצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת. וַאֲפִלּוּ הָיָה חָכָם וּמְכֻבָּד וְהֶעֱנִי יַעֲסֹק בְּאֻמְּנוּת וַאֲפִלּוּ בְּאֻמְּנוּת מְנֻוֶּלֶת וְלֹא יִצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת. מוּטָב לִפְשֹׁט עוֹר בְּהֵמוֹת נְבֵלוֹת וְלֹא יֹאמַר לָעָם חָכָם גָּדוֹל אֲנִי כֹּהֵן אֲנִי פַּרְנְסוּנִי. וּבְכָךְ צִוּוּ חֲכָמִים. גְּדוֹלֵי הַחֲכָמִים הָיוּ מֵהֶם חוֹטְבֵי עֵצִים וְנוֹשְׂאֵי הַקּוֹרוֹת וְשׁוֹאֲבֵי מַיִם לַגִּנּוֹת וְעוֹשֵׂי הַבַּרְזֶל וְהַפֶּחָמִים וְלֹא שָׁאֲלוּ מִן הַצִּבּוּר וְלֹא קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם כְּשֶׁנָּתְנוּ לָהֶם:

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

כָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לִטּל וּמְרַמֶּה אֶת הָעָם וְנוֹטֵל אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁיִּצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת. וַהֲרֵי הוּא בִּכְלַל (ירמיה יז ה) "אָרוּר הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בָּאָדָם". וְכָל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִטּל וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִחְיוֹת אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נוֹטֵל כְּגוֹן זָקֵן אוֹ חוֹלֶה אוֹ בַּעַל יִסּוּרִין וּמֵגִיס דַּעְתּוֹ וְאֵינוֹ נוֹטֵל הֲרֵי זֶה שׁוֹפֵךְ דָּמִים וּמִתְחַיֵּב בְּנַפְשׁוֹ וְאֵין לוֹ בְּצַעֲרוֹ אֶלָּא חַטָּאוֹת וַאֲשָׁמוֹת. וְכָל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִטּל וְצִעֵר וְדָחַק אֶת הַשָּׁעָה וְחָיָה חַיֵּי צַעַר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יַטְרִיחַ עַל הַצִּבּוּר אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁיְּפַרְנֵס אֲחֵרִים מִשֶּׁלּוֹ. וְעָלָיו וְעַל כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה נֶאֱמַר (ירמיה יז ז) "בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה'": סְלִיקוּ לְהוּ הִלְכוֹת מַתְּנוֹת עֲנִיִּים בְּסִיַעְתָּא דִּשְׁמַיָּא

Blessed be the Merciful One who grants assistance.

סליקו להו הלכות מתנות עניים בס"ד:

Test Yourself on This Chapter

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 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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