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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

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Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

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John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

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Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

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Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

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April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

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Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2009 / 23 Shevat 5769

Borderline Poor

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. I'm not exactly a needy person, but if I gave ten percent of my income to charity, I wouldn't be able to afford the basic needs of my family.


A. In a previous column, we described a dichotomy between families living at or below subsistence, who should give only a token amount to charity, and families with more resources who should be giving ten percent to those less well off. Jewish tradition in fact takes a more flexible view of matters. There are some expenses that a person can decide to "elect" as charity in case of need.


Here is an example. In general, poor family members are always given precedence in charity giving. This is learned from the verse "When you lend money to My people, to the poor with you, don't be to him like a creditor, don't take interest" (Exodus 22:24). The verse refers to helping a needy person through an interest-free loan, the preferred method when possible. The Talmud infers from the expression "the poor with you" that we give precedence to those needy individuals who are closest to us - first family, then neighbors. (1)


Another source is the verse from Isaiah (58:7), "Extend to the poor your bread, and bring downtrodden poor people into your home; when you see the naked clothe him, and don't hide from you own flesh." "Your own flesh" refers to your relatives; the verse admonishes us not to ignore them when we give charity.


Yet the following ruling from the Tosefta (a collection of laws parallel to the mishna) seems to frown on giving charity to the parent:


Two brothers, or two partner, and a father and son . . . can give their poor tithes to each other. Rabbi Yehuda said, Misfortune befalls one who gives his poor tithe to his father. (2)


The explanation is that the father, whenever possible, should be supported from the regular household budget, and charity funds given to others. Giving charity funds to the father has two problems: it shows disrespect for the father, who is treated like a charity case instead of as a family member, and it stints on charity to other individuals.


But if the family has enough to support the needy parent but not enough to provide for other poor people, then the poor tithe should in fact be used for family members.


In case of great need, even your children can be considered "charity recipients". Consider the following Talmudic passage. (The word "tzedakah" in context refers to "righteousness," but the passage understands it in its other sense, "charity".)


"Happy is he who keeps judgment, who does tzedakah at all times". (Psalms 106:3) Is it then possible to do tzedakah at all times? The rabbis in Yavneh, or some say Rabbi Eliezer, say, this refers to one who supports his young children.


Obviously a normal person shouldn't consider what he spends on his own children as charity. If so, virtually every person would be exempt from helping the poor, since it is a rare family that doesn't spend ten percent of its income on the needs of the children. The above passage evidently refers to someone who can't afford to give charity in any other way.


The authoritative Shach commentary of Rabbi Shabtai Rapaport writes that there are other expenses that can also be considered charity if there is no other way to afford them:


Any mitzvah, religious duty, which presents itself to him, such as . . .to buy [Torah] books to learn from them and lend them to others to study from them, if he doesn't have the means and would be unable to do that mitzvah, he can buy it from his tithe. (4)


If you are not poor, but are totally unable to give ten percent to pay for charity expenses which are beyond your household needs, then you should still set aside ten percent of your income for charity. But you may use a portion of that ten percent for special good deeds (mitzvah expenses) that you pay for within your own household. The rationale is that a person should always be in the habit of separating out part of his income to charity to remind himself it is to be used in G-d's service, even if afterwards he needs to spend it for his own needs.


In any case, it is necessary to give some of the tithe to poor people outside your household, as we learned last week that even a family receiving charity has to itself give at least a token amount to charity.


SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 71a (2) Tosefta Maaser Sheni 4:7 (3) Ketubos 50a (4) Shach commentary, Yoreh Deah 249:3

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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