Dear Rabbi,

I often give tzedakah, charity, in memory of loved ones and people who have inspired me, but lately my motivations have changed. I've been donating to worthy causes in the hope of achieving something I yearn for and dream about - I want my daughter to get married. Is this still charity, or am I bribing G‑d?


Actually, giving charity for personal gain is perfectly fine. According to the Talmud, “One who gives charity and says, ‘on condition that my child is healed from sickness,’ or ‘on condition that I earn a reward in the afterlife’ – is completely righteous.”1 As you said, this seems strange. Is the donation not tainted when done for one’s own benefit? Surely one should give with more altruistic motives.

But no. When it comes to giving charity our intentions matter little. The main thing is that the needy person or worthy cause is helped.

A philanthropist once came to Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi to complain that he felt he was giving charity without sincerity. “Without sincerity? Nonsense!” replied the Rebbe. “There is plenty of sincerity. Perhaps you are not sincere in giving charity, but the poor are very sincere in receiving your charity. Even if you don't mean it, they do!”

Don't get too preoccupied with intentions. When it comes to helping others, actions count more. If you are doing something good, even for selfish reasons, it is still good. And if selfish motives are what it takes to keep you giving charity, so be it.2

Can G‑d be bribed? I don't think so. Whether you will receive the particular blessing you seek is up to Him. But one thing is for sure, G‑d does not remain indebted. Any good deed, whatever the motive, generates blessing and will be rewarded. Sometimes we see the results, sometimes we don't. But it is our good deeds, not good intentions, which make the world a better place.