My question is regarding giving a tenth of our income to charity. My husband and I have always been faithful in this, but recently we have fallen into financially difficult times. We have several small children, and often times we do not have enough for a nice meal on Shabbat, and we find it difficult to buy Torah education books for our children and selves. The holidays are approaching, and things don't really look great. I think you get the picture... How strictly should we continue to do give even if it means going without other essentials? Can we give some of this to ourselves for the above causes? Any help or advice would be appreciated.


From what the executive directors of my children's schools tell me (they review tuition subsidy applications), you are not alone in facing the grueling test of financial pressures. Not that knowing this necessarily makes matters any easier to handle.

As tough as things are, though, I would urge you not to cut back on your outlay for Shabbat. Because our sages assure us that what we pay to honor the Shabbat is not deducted from our divinely determined annual income.

Under your present circumstances, there are a number of expenses that you are allowed to count as part of your ma'aser (ten percent designated for charity).

1. Torah books can be paid for from ma'aser monies; if you purchase them for loaning to others also, besides for your own use.

2. Depending on the ages of your children, tuition may be paid for from ma'aser (speak to your rabbi to find out whether your situation meets the halachic criteria).

3. Remember that ma'aser only has to be taken from net income, not from gross income. In addition, it is possible to deduct from your net certain work related expenses that Uncle Sam may not allow.

I urge you to speak with your own local rabbi to obtain further guidance about ma'aser. And also to explore what social support services are available in the Jewish community to help you through these pressing times.

Surely, though, G‑d will bless you and your family with a good and sweet year, with abundant health and livelihood, rendering your question purely academic.

Best wishes for a good and sweet year!

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for