I read somewhere that it is inappropriate to give tzedakah (charity) during the night. Can you explain why?


In the Jerusalem Talmud there is a story told of Rabbi Chiya bar Pappa who gave tzedakah at night, and the leader of the evil spirits came to him and said "Isn't it taught in the Torah: 'You shall not move back your neighbor's landmark'?"

In its most literal sense, this prohibition, known as "hasagat g'vul," prohibits surreptitiously moving a land marker separating your field from your neighbor's in order to expand your own property. The prohibition also includes, however, any encroachment upon a fellow's profession and/or livelihood.

Nighttime is when the divine forces of judgment and severity rule supreme; the physical darkness is a mirror image of its divine source. When giving tzedakah we are "sweetening" the harshness of pure justice, tempering and diluting whatever tough love would have been doled out during that time—which is why the spirit complained to the rabbi. He was concerned that Rabbi Chiya was interfering with his power to fulfill his divinely ordained mission, and thus violating the prohibition against pulling back a neighbor's landmark.

This Talmudic passage is the basis for that which is written in many mystical works, to avoid giving charity at night.

Nevertheless, this concern applies only to actively seeking out a pauper during nighttime hours to give him tzedakah. If one is approached by a needy person for help, there is a 24/7 obligation to help our brethren in need, and all other considerations are disregarded in the face of human need, as the Torah instructs us, "You shall not harden your heart."

The same would apply to placing money in a tzedakah box. The money given is not going to the poor man's pocket right now, during the nighttime hours, so it would be okay. Writing a check is similarly not problematic.

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Rabbi Moshe Goldman for