Ask the Rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • Ma'asser - Tithing - To Who?

Tzedaka to beggers


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

17 Adar II 5763
Both my mother and I are concerned about when to give tzedaka to beggars. when we walk in the street, we might pass about 5-10 beggars who ask for money. some of them we know and respect, and some of them seem to use the money for drugs or are otherwise very rude and call out to us or pull our shirt. but there is a halacha, I think it is a halacha, about giving to each hand that reaches out, and then there is all the stories about Eliyahu Hanavi that might be one of the beggars, and the fact that we are not allowed to judge people(defiantly not by their appearance). so how do we know to who to give and how much should we give apart from our maaser. I feel bad giving to people who have been rude or deceitful(like pretending to have a handicap or being religeous,when I saw it with my own eyes) or that I suspect them to use it for drugs, but I can’t stop wondering that I might be wrong... Thank you so much for your answer in advance, its great to have a place to finally ask all those burning questions.
You must give a beggar food if he claims that he is in need of it and are not allowed to put him off until after you have verified his need (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 251). If however he is asking for money, you should check if his story is true before making a contribution. If you give charity to people who should not be getting it, you will be giving less to people who do need it. Especially in our difficult times, it is extremely important that all charities are received by those who are genuinely needy and not have the money siphoned off by thieves.
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