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Jewish Discretion in Giving Tzedakah


Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

9 Av 5765
Our Beit Knesset is frequented by poor jews from both Chutz La’Aretz as well Eretz Yisrael. Our community regulates their collections by having a local Rav give them a certificate, stating the purpose of their collection as well as any pertinent facts these unfortunate jews may seek to make known. Notwithstanding my inclination to give to all jews who would ask, there seem to be a subset of people seeking money that do not seem to have, in my mind, pursuasive arguments for collecting money (i.e. one person was seeking money to pay for his daughter’s wedding, while saying that he was learning full-time and tactly had no intention of obtaining work himself). My question is this - do I have the ability to NOT give Tzedakah to a jew that asks for it? Or, am I capable of using my own judgement to decide if/how much financial support I will give to those that personally ask me? I hope that my question does not sound callous or uncaring to the all-to-many jews sadly in need of help (who I regularly DO try to help). Rather, I am trying to clarify the point in regards to those people who’s needs may be less acute.
For "Matanot Laevyonim" on Purim it says in Talmud and Halacha – "anyone who begs should be given without checking after him" – this infers that for other cases you can check if the person asking is really needy. Yet, I think that if a person is degrading himself to come and beg from you, he is probably needy, even if it doesn't look like it; therefore denying him from any help is not the authentic Jewish way. You can give the bulk of your Tzedakah to people and organizations you know are worthy of your money but leave some for all the others, give them a small donation, a comforting smile, a good word; don’t let them go from you with nothing.
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