I know we are meant to give a tenth of our income to charity. What if I volunteer my time for a charity? Can I deduct that from the required ten percent?


There are two distinct types of charitable acts: tzedakah and chesed. Tzedakah means justice, doing that which is just and fair. Chesed means kindness, doing more than is fair and acting out of the goodness of your heart.

A tenth of your income is not really yours. It was entrusted to you temporarily to give you the privilege of being able to help the needy. It is only fair that you pass it on to its rightful owner. This is tzedakah.

But beyond the obligation to give tzedakah, we must do acts of chesed. This is the kindness we do with our own time and money, like helping our friend move, visiting someone who is unwell or hosting a guest in our home.

Volunteering your time could be tzedakah, and it could be chesed, depending on the circumstances. The question is, would you normally have been paid for your time? A computer technician who offers to fix a charity's computer system pro bono can deduct the amount he would have earned from his ten percent tzedakah obligation, because he would normally have been paid for the work he did. But if that same guy manned the barbecue at a charity event, that is chesed, not tzedakah. He is not usually paid to flip burgers, so the time he spends doing it is not deductible from his tithing obligation.

Another difference between tzedakah and chesed: There is a limit placed on how much tzedakah one should give. Average income earners should not give more than a fifth of their income; otherwise they may endanger their financial stability. However, when it comes to chesed, there is no limit to the kindness you can do.