On account of a protracted illness I was unable to work and incurred interest bearing debts. I am living on a very tight budget to deal with the situation. I want to give tsedaka and am keeping track of my income and the tsedaka I owe from it. The problem is that when I give tsedaka I am adding to the debt (at 15% interest). What should I do?
Hashem Imach! There are three legitimate opinions in the poskim regarding ma’aser ksafim (giving 10% to tzedaka): a. 10% is an obligation b. 10% is an important mitzvah but not an obligation c. 10% is a midat chasidut (worthy and upright) If so, in your case, what you are doing by writing down your income so that when things get easier and you BH finish paying off your debts, you will know how much to give to tzedaka, is a great idea. In the meantime, by no means, according to any opinion, should you go into debt to give tzedaka to others, as stressed emphatically in Sefer Chasidim (397 and 454, based upon R. Nechunya ben HaKaneh, Megilla 25)! It’s a good idea to continue giving even a small nominal amount (even 10 agurot) every day, to keep up that positive character trait of giving. You should also know that doing volunteer work can be considered tzedaka and ma’aser ksafim, as well (ibid, 61), for “time is money”. With G-d’s help, your positive intentions are continuously accumulating and may He help you to help others! With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat