Halacha for Sunday 3 Tammuz 5781 June 13 2021

The Mitzvah of Tzedakah and Donating a Tenth of One’s Earnings

By popular demand, we shall now discuss the topics of Tzedakah and donating a tenth of one’s earnings more broadly based on the words of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch and the Poskim and based on what is written in the works of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l on this topic.

Question: How much must one give to each needy individual: Should one give the poor person only the minimum amount of sustenance that he needs to live or should one provide him with all of his needs as he is accustomed to?

Answer: The Baraita in Masechet Ketubot (67b) states: “How much must one donate to a poor person? This is based on what he lacks, which means that if he is hungry, one should feed him. If he is naked, one should dress him. If he has no housewares, one should provide him with housewares. Even if he is accustomed to riding a horse and having a servant run before him when he was wealthy and then he became poor, we must purchase him a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him; each person based on what he lacks.”

This means that one should donate to every person who lacks money the amount of money he requires in order to live a lifestyle he is worthy of. Thus, if the individual is a simple person, he should be provided with funds sufficient to help him purchase food and drink and help him cover expenses such as water, electricity, telephone bills, tuition, etc. If the individual was wealthy and then he fell on hard times and became poor, he should be provided with his needs based on what he is accustomed to, such as if he was accustomed to living in a large house and driving a luxury car, he should be assisted to achieve this as well. Indeed, based on the words of our Sages, even if he was accustomed to riding a horse and having a servant run before him, he should be afforded all of the things he was accustomed to before he became needy.

When there is not enough money in the coffers of the Tzedakah treasurers, they must certainly first assist all of the poor with food, drink, clothing, and shelter. If, however, there is an opportunity to donate more Tzedakah for other expenses, it is then a Mitzvah to provide all of the poor people with anything they lack in a complete manner so that the entire Jewish nation can be glad and not suffer in poverty.

Based on this, when any one of us donate Tzedakah from our own pockets to any individual we wish, all of the poor person’s needs are included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah; even if one provides the needy person with money to buy things which are beyond basic necessities, this is nevertheless included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah.

An incident once occurred with Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l who provided food packages to large, needy family in Jerusalem before the holiday of Pesach. Inside in this package, Harav Auerbach included several tickets to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo for the entire family. When one of his family members asked for an explanation about the tickets to the zoo, the great Torah luminary replied, “What will a family with many children do at home for an entire week? It is certainly a good idea for them to get out a little bit and visit the zoo with their children.”

Based on what we have exclaimed above, purchasing such tickets and the like for a needy family is likewise included in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah and performing kindness. The above incident involving Hagaon Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l should remind us all about the sensitivity one must have regarding needy individuals close to us.

It is a great Mitzvah to provide the needy with clothing fit for middle-class individuals, i.e. several changes of clothes for during the week and one suit for Shabbat. For women, it is accepted to have several outfits for Shabbat. It is likewise a great Mitzvah to provide for one who cannot afford to get married and help them cover the wedding expenses and other necessities in a respectable manner. This is known as the Mitzvah of “Hachnassat Kallah”.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

The Laws of Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av

Following halachic nightfall on Tisha Be’av which is approximately twenty minutes after sunset (somewhat later in the United States), one is permitted to eat and drink. It is customary to recite Birkat Ha’Levana (blessing on the new moon) following Arvit prayers on Motza’ei Tisha B......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5781, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

Yesterday, Shabbat, we marked Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Sunday (beginning from Motza’ei Shabbat), will mark Tisha Be’av. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebration. The Jewish Nation’s Fortune During the Month of Av Although we customarily implement some mourn......

Read Halacha

Tisha Be’av Falls Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat- Clothing for Tisha Be’av

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha


Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Travelling by Car

Question: If one is eating while travelling by car, may one recite Birkat Hamazon while continuing to travel? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that our Sages have instituted that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while seated in order for one to have optimum concentration while bles......

Read Halacha

Question: Is there an obligation to leave an area in one’s home unplastered or unfinished as is the custom of some G-d-fearing individuals?

Answer: The Gemara (Baba Batra 60b) states that following the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash, the Sages of that generation instituted that one may not build a house plastered and adorned like a king’s residence. Rather, when one builds a home and plasters it, one should leave an area of one ......

Read Halacha

Question: Must a woman remove the nail polish from her fingernails before performing Netilat Yadayim?

Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that before washing one’s hands for a bread meal, one must make sure that there is no substance stuck to one’s hands that will cause a separation between one’s hands and the water. Any substance which constitutes a “separation......

Read Halacha

Nullification of Danger-Based Prohibitions

Question: Last Friday, I was standing next to the stove in the kitchen. The was an open pot of fish on the stove and alongside it, I was frying Schnitzel (coated chicken-breast) when mistakenly, some drops of oil from the frying pan flew into the pot of fish. Is the fish still permissible for consum......

Read Halacha