Dear Rabbi,

I recently completed a major business deal and made a profit of several hundred thousand dollars. I live a rather simple lifestyle and was wondering if you could offer some advice on what I should do with the money.

Answer:

Congratulations on your business deal!

I’m sure you know that Judaism values charity. But this may come as a surprise: the greatest form of charity does not involve giving monetary gifts. The highest form of charity is giving someone employment, a loan or the chance to become your business partner.

Maimonides writes in his Code of Jewish Law:

There are eight levels of charity, each level surpassing the other.

The greatest level, beyond which there is none, is a person who supports one who has fallen into poverty by giving him a present or a loan, entering into partnership with him, or finding him work so that his hand will be fortified and he will not to ask others for financial support.

We read in Leviticus 25:35, “You shall support him, the stranger, the resident, and he shall live among you.”

The verse is saying that you should support him before he falls and becomes needy.1

Rabbi Shabtai HaKohen (1622-1663), known as the Shach, in his gloss on the Code of Jewish Law, writes:

Becoming his partner is greater than even giving a loan. Giving a loan to your friend without interest, the person still feels that he needs to rely on the graciousness of his friend, without his friend ever getting any benefit from his loan. But when it comes to partnership, the person is not embarrassed since his friend – his business partner – is also receiving benefit.2

But Maimonides does refer to giving gifts. Would that not embarrass the person in need?

Rabbi David Halevi (1586-1667), known as the Taz, explains that this present refers to giving before the person has become a pauper. The present is to help him get back on his feet before he goes completely under.3

All in all, the message of the codifiers of Jewish law is that the rich have the ability to give the greatest form of charity: employing and partnering with those who would not otherwise have money.

While you should give at least a tenth of the money to the poor, it is just as important, if not more important, to establish partnerships and places of employment for those who are unemployed.

When people use their money to help others stand on their own feet, we understand why Rabbi Judah the Prince, one of the most renowned 2nd century sages, declared “Honor the rich.”4 Or as the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, explained, “The rich are people whom Divine Providence has granted the means to achieve much good in G‑d's world.”5

See Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Charity? from the Charity and Judaism minisite.