Charity is considered as a vow. Therefore one who says: "I pledge to give a sela to charity"1 or "[I will give] this sela to charity,"2 he is obligated to give it [to charity] immediately.3 If he delays, he transgresses the commandment against delaying [the observance of one's vow],4 for he has the capacity to make the gift immediately and [generally,] there are poor people at hand.

If there are no poor people at hand, he should set aside [the donation] and put it away until he finds poor people.5 If he made a stipulation that he is not obligated to make the donation until he finds poor people, he does not have to separate it [until the poor are at hand]. Similarly, if he made a stipulation at the time he made his vow to charity or pledged his donation that the trustees of the charitable fund could exchange it for gold, they are permitted to do so.6


הַצְדָקָה הֲרֵי הִיא בִּכְלַל הַנְּדָרִים. לְפִיכָךְ הָאוֹמֵר הֲרֵי עָלַי סֶלַע לִצְדָקָה אוֹ הֲרֵי סֶלַע זוֹ צְדָקָה חַיָּב לִתְּנָהּ לָעֲנִיִּים מִיָּד וְאִם אִחֵר עָבַר בְּ (דברים כג כב) "בַל תְּאַחֵר" שֶׁהֲרֵי בְּיָדוֹ לִתֵּן מִיָּד וַעֲנִיִּים מְצוּיִין הֵן. אֵין שָׁם עֲנִיִּים מַפְרִישׁ וּמַנִּיחַ עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא עֲנִיִּים. וְאִם הִתְנָה שֶׁלֹּא יִתֵּן עַד שֶׁיִּמְצָא עָנִי אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לְהַפְרִישׁ. וְכֵן אִם הִתְנָה בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנָּדַר בִּצְדָקָה אוֹ הִתְנַדֵּב אוֹתוֹ שֶׁיִּהְיוּ הַגַּבָּאִין רַשָּׁאִין לְשַׁנּוֹתָהּ וּלְצָרְפָהּ בְּזָהָב הֲרֵי אֵלּוּ מֻתָּרִין:


When a person extends a vow made to charity, he is obligated as is the case with regard to other vows.7

What is implied? If he said: "This sela is like this one [given to charity], it is also charity. When a person sets aside a sela and says: "This is charity" and then takes another sela and says: "And this," the second is also charity even though he did not say so explicitly.8


הַמַּתְפִּיס בִּצְדָקָה חַיָּב כִּשְׁאָר הַנְּדָרִים. כֵּיצַד. אָמַר הֲרֵי סֶלַע זוֹ כְּזוֹ הֲרֵי זוֹ צְדָקָה. הַמַּפְרִישׁ סֶלַע וְאָמַר הֲרֵי זוֹ צְדָקָה וְלָקַח סֶלַע שְׁנִיָּה וְאָמַר וְזוֹ הֲרֵי שְׁנִיָּה צְדָקָה. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא פֵּרֵשׁ:


When a person takes a vow [to give charity], but does not remember how much he vowed to give, he should give until he says: "I did not intend [to give] this [much]."9


הַנּוֹדֵר צְדָקָה וְלֹא יָדַע כַּמָּה נָדַר יִתֵּן עַד שֶׁיֹּאמַר לֹא לְכָךְ נִתְכַּוַּנְתִּי:


[The following rules apply] both to a person who says: "This sela is charity" and one who says: "I pledge a sela for charity" and sets it aside. If he desires to exchange it with another [coin], he is permitted to do so.10 Once it reaches the hand of the treasurer of the charity, it is forbidden to be exchanged. If the treasurer of the charity desires to exchange the common currency for dinarim,11 they are not permitted to do so.12 If there are no poor among whom to distribute the funds, they should have others exchange the coins,13 but they should not do so themselves.


אֶחָד הָאוֹמֵר סֶלַע זוֹ צְדָקָה אוֹ הָאוֹמֵר הֲרֵי עָלַי סֶלַע לִצְדָקָה וְהִפְרִישׁוֹ. אִם רָצָה לְשַׁנּוֹתוֹ בְּאַחֵר מֻתָּר. וְאִם מִשֶּׁהִגִּיעַ לְיַד הַגַּבַּאי אָסוּר לְשַׁנּוֹתוֹ. וְאִם רָצוּ הַגַּבָּאִים לְצָרֵף הַמָּעוֹת וְלַעֲשׂוֹתָן דִּינָרִין אֵינָן רַשָּׁאִין אֶלָּא אִם אֵין שָׁם עֲנִיִּים לְחַלֵּק מְצָרְפִין לַאֲחֵרִים. אֲבָל לֹא לְעַצְמָן:


If the poor would benefit from the delay of the money in the possession of the charity collector so that he could motivate others to give,14 that charity collector may borrow the money and pay [when the funds are required]. For charity does not resemble funds dedicated to the Temple treasury from which it is forbidden to benefit.


הָיָה לַעֲנִיִּים הֲנָאָה בְּעִכּוּב הַמָּעוֹת בְּיַד הַגַּבַּאי כְּדֵי לַעֲשׂוֹת לַאֲחֵרִים לִתֵּן. הֲרֵי אוֹתוֹ הַגַּבַּאי מֻתָּר לִלְווֹת אוֹתָם הַמָּעוֹת שֶׁל עֲנִיִּים וּפוֹרֵעַ. שֶׁהַצְּדָקָה אֵינָהּ כְּהֶקְדֵּשׁ שֶׁאָסוּר לֵהָנוֹת בּוֹ:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


When a person donates a candelabra or a lamp to a synagogue, it is forbidden to exchange it.15 If it is for a sacramental purpose, it is permitted to exchange it, even though the name of the donor is still associated with it, e.g., it is said: "This is so-and-so's candelabra" or "...so-and-so's lamp."16 If the name of the donor is no longer associated with it, it may be exchanged17 even for matters that are not sacramental in nature.


מִי שֶׁהִתְנַדֵּב מְנוֹרָה אוֹ נֵר לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת אָסוּר לְשַׁנּוֹתָהּ. וְאִם לִדְבַר מִצְוָה מֻתָּר לְשַׁנּוֹתָהּ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁתַּקַּע שֵׁם בְּעָלֶיהָ מֵעָלֶיהָ. אֶלָּא אוֹמְרִים זוֹ הַמְּנוֹרָה אוֹ נֵר שֶׁל פְּלוֹנִי. וְאִם נִשְׁתַּקַּע שֵׁם הַבְּעָלִים מֵעָלֶיהָ מֻתָּר לְשַׁנּוֹתָהּ אֲפִלּוּ לִדְבַר הָרְשׁוּת:


When does the above apply? When the donor was Jewish. If, however, he was a gentile, it is forbidden to exchange it even for matters that are sacramental in nature as long as the name of the donor is still associated with it.18 [We fear that] the gentile might say: "I consecrated an article to the Jews' synagogue and they sold it for their own purposes."19


בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁהָיָה הַמִּתְנַדֵּב יִשְׂרָאֵל. אֲבָל אִם הָיָה עַכּוּ''ם אָסוּר לְשַׁנּוֹתָהּ אֲפִלּוּ לִדְבַר מִצְוָה עַד שֶׁיִּשְׁתַּקֵּעַ שֵׁם בְּעָלֶיהָ מֵעָלֶיהָ. שֶׁמָּא יֹאמַר הָעַכּוּ''ם הִקְדַּשְׁתִּי דָּבָר לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת שֶׁל יְהוּדִים וּמְכָרוּהוּ לְעַצְמָן:


When a gentile seeks to make a donation to the Temple treasury, initially, we do not accept it. If, however, it was taken from him, we do not return it to him. If it was a specific article, e.g., a beam or a stone, we return it to him so that there will not be a specific entity in the Temple associated with [a gentile], as [Ezra 4:3] states: "It is not for you,20 together with us to build a Temple for our God."21 For a synagogue, by contrast, we may accept their [donations, even] initially, provided they say: "I am donating it according to the intent of the Jewish people." If he does not say so, it must be entombed, for perhaps his intent was to consecrate it unto God.22 We do not receive donations23 from them for the walls of Jerusalem or an aqueduct in [that city], as [Nechemiah 2:20] states: "And you do not have a portion or a remembrance in Jerusalem."24


עַכּוּ''ם שֶׁהִתְנַדֵּב לְבֶדֶק הַבַּיִת אֵין מְקַבְּלִין מִמֶּנּוּ לְכַתְּחִלָּה. וְאִם לָקְחוּ מִמֶּנּוּ אֵין מַחְזִירִין לוֹ. הָיָה הַדָּבָר מְסֻיָּם כְּגוֹן קוֹרָה אוֹ אֶבֶן מַחְזִירִין לוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יְהֵא לָהֶן דָּבָר מְסֻיָּם בַּמִּקְדָּשׁ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (עזרא ד ג) "לֹא לָכֶם וָלָנוּ" וְגוֹ'. אֲבָל לְבֵית הַכְּנֶסֶת מְקַבְּלִין מֵהֶן לְכַתְּחִלָּה. וְהוּא שֶׁיֹּאמַר כְּדַעַת יִשְׂרָאֵל הִפְרַשְׁתִּי. וְאִם לֹא אָמַר טָעוּן גְּנִיזָה שֶׁמָּא לִבּוֹ לַשָּׁמַיִם. וְאֵין מְקַבְּלִים מֵהֶם לְחוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם וְלֹא לְאַמַּת הַמַּיִם שֶׁבָּהּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (נחמיה ב כ) "וְלָכֶם אֵין חֵלֶק וְזִכָּרוֹן בִּירוּשָׁלָיִם":


It is forbidden for a Jew to receive charity from a gentile25 in public.26 If he is unable to subsist on the charity given by the Jews and it is impossible to receive charity from the gentiles in private, it is permitted.

When a gentile king or official sends money to the Jews for charity, we do not return it to him so as [not to jeopardize] peaceful relations with the king.27 Instead, we take [the charity] from him and give it to the gentile poor in secret28 so that the king will not hear.29


אָסוּר לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לִטּל צְדָקָה מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם בְּפַרְהֶסְיָא. וְאִם אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִחְיוֹת בִּצְדָקָה שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִטְּלָהּ מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם בְּצִנְעָה הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר. וּמֶלֶךְ אוֹ שַׂר מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם שֶׁשָּׁלַח מָמוֹן לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לִצְדָקָה אֵין מַחְזִירִין אוֹתוֹ לוֹ מִשּׁוּם שְׁלוֹם מַלְכוּת. אֶלָּא נוֹטְלִין מִמֶּנּוּ וְיִנָּתֵן לַעֲנִיֵּי עַכּוּ''ם בַּסֵּתֶר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁמַע הַמֶּלֶךְ:


The redemption of captives receives priority over sustaining the poor and providing them with clothing. [Indeed,] there is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of captives.30 For a captive is among those who are hungry, thirsty, and unclothed and he is in mortal peril.31 If someone pays no attention to his redemption, he violates the negative commandments: "Do not harden your heart or close your hand" (Deuteronomy 15:7), "Do not stand by when the blood of your neighbor is in danger" (Leviticus 19:16), and "He shall not oppress him with exhausting work in your presence" (ibid. 25:53). And he has negated the observance of the positive commandments: "You shall certainly open up your hand to him" (Deuteronomy 15:8), "And your brother shall live with you" (ibid. 19:18), "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), "Save those who are taken for death" (Proverbs 24:11), and many other decrees of this nature. There is no mitzvah as great as the redemption of captives.


פִּדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים קוֹדֵם לְפַרְנָסַת עֲנִיִּים וְלִכְסוּתָן. וְאֵין לְךָ מִצְוָה גְּדוֹלָה כְּפִדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים שֶׁהַשָּׁבוּי הֲרֵי הוּא בִּכְלַל הָרְעֵבִים וְהַצְּמֵאִים וַעֲרוּמִּים וְעוֹמֵד בְּסַכָּנַת נְפָשׁוֹת. וְהַמַּעֲלִים עֵינָיו מִפִּדְיוֹנוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה עוֹבֵר עַל (דברים טו ז) "לֹא תְאַמֵּץ אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא תִקְפֹּץ אֶת יָדְךָ" וְעַל (ויקרא יט טז) "לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל דַּם רֵעֶךָ" וְעַל (ויקרא כה נג) "לֹא יִרְדֶּנּוּ בְּפֶרֶךְ לְעֵינֶיךָ". וּבִטֵּל מִצְוַת (דברים טו ח) (דברים טו יא) "פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת יָדְךָ לוֹ". וּמִצְוַת (ויקרא כה לו) "וְחֵי אָחִיךָ עִמָּךְ". (ויקרא יט יח) "וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ". (משלי כד יא) "וְהַצֵּל לְקֻחִים לַמָּוֶת" וְהַרְבֵּה דְּבָרִים כָּאֵלּוּ. וְאֵין לְךָ מִצְוָה רַבָּה כְּפִדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים:


When the inhabitants of a city collected money for building a synagogue and a purpose associated with a mitzvah arose, they may use the money for that purpose. If they purchased stones and beams, they should not sell them [and use the proceeds] for a purpose associated with a mitzvah other than the redemption of captives.32 Even though they brought the stones [to the building site], cut the beams and shaped them to size, and prepared everything for building, it should all be sold, [but] only for the sake of redeeming captives. If they built [the synagogue] and completed it,33 it should not be sold. Instead, the funds necessary to redeem the captives should be raised from the community.34


אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר שֶׁגָּבוּ מָעוֹת לְבִנְיַן בֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת וּבָא לָהֶן דְּבַר מִצְוָה מוֹצִיאִין בּוֹ הַמָּעוֹת. קָנוּ אֲבָנִים וְקוֹרוֹת לֹא יִמְכְּרוּם לִדְבַר מִצְוָה אֶלָּא לְפִדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵבִיאוּ אֶת הָאֲבָנִים וּגְדָרוּם וְאֶת הַקּוֹרוֹת וּפְסָלוּם וְהִתְקִינוּ הַכּל לַבִּנְיָן מוֹכְרִין הַכּל לְפִדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים בִּלְבַד. אֲבָל אִם בָּנוּ וְגָמְרוּ לֹא יִמְכְּרוּ אֶת בֵּית הַכְּנֶסֶת אֶלָּא יִגְבּוּ לְפִדְיוֹנָן מִן הַצִּבּוּר:


We do not redeem captives for more than their worth35 for the benefit of the world at large, i.e., so that enemies will not pursue people to hold them captive.36 We do not assist captives in escaping, for the benefit of the world at large, i.e., so that enemies will not oppress captives seriously and be very strict when guarding them.37


אֵין פּוֹדִין אֶת הַשְּׁבוּיִים בְּיֶתֶר עַל דְּמֵיהֶן מִפְּנֵי תִּקּוּן הָעוֹלָם. שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ הָאוֹיְבִים רוֹדְפִין אַחֲרֵיהֶם לִשְׁבּוֹתָם. וְאֵין מַבְרִיחִין אֶת הַשְּׁבוּיִים מִפְּנֵי תִּקּוּן הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיוּ הָאוֹיְבִים מַכְבִּידִין עֲלֵיהֶן אֶת הָעל וּמַרְבִּים בִּשְׁמִירָתָן:


When a person sold himself and his children [as servants] to gentiles or borrowed money from them and they held him captive or imprisoned him [because of his failure to pay] the loan, it is a mitzvah to redeem him the first or second time [he is held]. [If this happens] a third time, we do not redeem him.38 We do, however, redeem the sons after their father's passing.39 If they sought to kill him, we redeem him from their hands even if he [has been held captive] several times.40


מִי שֶׁמָּכַר עַצְמוֹ וּבָנָיו לְעַכּוּ''ם אוֹ שֶׁלָּוָה מֵהֶן וְשָׁבוּ אוֹתָן אוֹ אֲסָרוּהוּ בְּהַלְוָאָתָן. פַּעַם רִאשׁוֹנָה וּשְׁנִיָּה מִצְוָה לִפְדּוֹתָן. שְׁלִישִׁית אֵין פּוֹדִין אוֹתָן. אֲבָל פּוֹדִין אֶת הַבָּנִים לְאַחַר מִיתַת אֲבִיהֶן. וְאִם בִּקְּשׁוּהוּ לְהָרְגוֹ פּוֹדִין אוֹתוֹ מִיָּדָם אֲפִלּוּ אַחַר כַּמָּה פְּעָמִים:


When a servant is held captive, since he immersed himself [in the mikveh] and accepted the mitzvot,41 he should be redeemed like a Jew who has been taken captive. When a captive abandons his faith even with regard to only one mitzvah, e.g., he eats meat from animals that were not ritually slaughtered with the intent of angering God42 or the like, it is forbidden to redeem him.


עֶבֶד שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה הוֹאִיל וְטָבַל לְשֵׁם עַבְדוּת וְקִבֵּל עָלָיו מִצְוֹת פּוֹדִין אוֹתוֹ כְּיִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁנִּשְׁבָּה. וְשָׁבוּי שֶׁהֵמִיר לְעַכּוּ''ם וַאֲפִלּוּ לְמִצְוָה אַחַת כְּגוֹן שֶׁהָיָה אוֹכֵל נְבֵלָה לְהַכְעִיס וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ אָסוּר לִפְדּוֹתוֹ:


A woman receives precedence over a man with regard to being given sustenance, clothing, and to be redeemed from captivity.43 [The rationale is that] it is common for a man to beg, but not for a woman and this is extremely embarrassing for her. If they were both held in captivity and they were both solicited for a transgression,44 the man should be redeemed first, because this is not ordinary for him.45


הָאִשָּׁה קוֹדֶמֶת לְאִישׁ לְהַאֲכִיל וְלִכְסוּת וּלְהוֹצִיא מִבֵּית הַשֶּׁבִי. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהָאִישׁ דַּרְכּוֹ לְחַזֵּר לֹא הָאִשָּׁה וּבָשְׁתָּהּ מְרֻבָּה. וְאִם הָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם בַּשִּׁבְיָה וְנִתְבְּעוּ שְׁנֵיהֶן לִדְבַר עֲבֵרָה הָאִישׁ קוֹדֵם לִפְדּוֹת לְפִי שֶׁאֵין דַּרְכּוֹ לְכָךְ:


When a male and female orphan come seeking assistance in marriage, we assist the woman before the man, because the woman's shame is greater. She should not be given less than the weight of six and a quarter dinarim of pure silver.46 If the treasury of the charitable fund has the means, we give the money according to her honor.


יָתוֹם וִיתוֹמָה שֶׁבָּאוּ לְהַשִּׂיא אוֹתָן מַשִּׂיאִין הָאִשָּׁה קֹדֶם לָאִישׁ מִפְּנֵי שֶׁבָּשְׁתָּהּ שֶׁל אִשָּׁה מְרֻבָּה. וְלֹא יִפְחֲתוּ לָהּ מִמִּשְׁקַל שִׁשָּׁה דִּינָרִים וּרְבִיעַ דִּינָר שֶׁל כֶּסֶף טָהוֹר. וְאִם יֵשׁ בְּכִיס שֶׁל צְדָקָה נוֹתְנִין לָהּ לְפִי כְּבוֹדָהּ:


If there were many poor people or many captives and one does not have the means to provide sustenance or clothing for all of them or to redeem all of them, a priest is given precedence over a Levite.47 A Levite is given precedence over an Israelite. An Israelite is given precedence over a challal,48 a challal over a shituki,49 a shituki over an asufi,50 an asufi over a mamzer,51 a mamzer over a netin,52 and a netin over a convert. [The rationale for the latter is that] a netin grew up with us in holiness.53 A convert is granted precedence over a freed servant, for [the latter] was originally among those who were "cursed."54


הָיוּ לְפָנֵינוּ עֲנִיִּים הַרְבֵּה אוֹ שְׁבוּיִים הַרְבֵּה וְאֵין בַּכִּיס כְּדֵי לְפַרְנֵס אוֹ כְּדֵי לְכַסּוֹת אוֹ כְּדֵי לִפְדּוֹת אֶת כֻּלָּן. מַקְדִּימִין אֶת הַכֹּהֵן לַלֵּוִי. וְלֵוִי לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. וְיִשְׂרָאֵל לְחָלָל. וְחָלָל לִשְׁתוּקִי. וּשְׁתוּקִי לַאֲסוּפִי. וַאֲסוּפִי לְמַמְזֵר. וּמַמְזֵר לְנָתִין. וְנָתִין לְגֵר. שֶׁהַנָּתִין גָּדַל עִמָּנוּ בִּקְדֻשָּׁה. וְגֵר קוֹדֵם לְעֶבֶד מְשֻׁחְרָר. לְפִי שֶׁהָיָה בִּכְלַל אָרוּר:


When does the above apply? When the two [captives] were equal in knowledge. If, however, a High Priest55 was unlearned and a mamzer was a Torah scholar, the Torah scholar receives precedence.56 Whoever surpasses his colleague in knowledge receives precedence over his colleague.

If, however, one [of the poor or the captives] is one's teacher or father,57 His father or teacher who is a Torah scholar58 receives precedence over another who surpasses him in wisdom.


בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בְּשֶׁהָיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶן שָׁוִין בְּחָכְמָה. אֲבָל אִם הָיָה כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל עַם הָאָרֶץ וּמַמְזֵר תַּלְמִיד חָכָם. תַּלְמִיד חָכָם קוֹדֵם. וְכָל הַגָּדוֹל בְּחָכְמָה קוֹדֵם אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ. וְאִם הָיָה אֶחָד מֵהֶן רַבּוֹ אוֹ אָבִיו אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם גָּדוֹל מֵהֶן בְּחָכְמָה. רַבּוֹ אוֹ אָבִיו שֶׁהוּא תַּלְמִיד חָכָם קוֹדֵם לָזֶה שֶׁהוּא גָּדוֹל מֵהֶם בְּחָכְמָה: