Elul 11, 5777
wedding gifts /Tzadaka
May I include wedding gifts as Hachnasat Kalah in my tzadakah donations calculation?
Thank you for your question. One may certainly use their ma'aser and tzadkah money for the needs of getting a poor couple married and set up in their new house (see Avahat Chesed, part 2, chapter 19, 2). This would even include money they need to buy an apartment.
Normally wedding gifts are a fine way to give this charity – it does not embarrass the couple, and is socially acceptable. However, this is only considered charity if the couple is poor. If the couple themselves are wealthy enough to pay for the wedding and set up house themselves – or if their parents are willing and able to do this for them – then your gift is not considered as charity. It is just a nice (and the proper) thing to do.
In Israel it seems to me that most couples would be unable to afford the wedding and setting up house without getting wedding gifts. (This is certainly true in most of the couples getting married where the husband learns in Yeshiva). As to the case outside Israel – you will have to be the judge of each case, but I imagine that many couples would be considered as in need of the wedding gifts.
There is a further problem – above determining if the couple are in financial need. That is that one is not allowed to pay off their debts with ma'aser money. If it is socially unacceptable to go to the wedding without a gift, it is considered as a form of a debt. In such a case it is problematic to use ma'aser money for this purpose. But, even in such a case, you can decide what the minimum acceptable amount for a gift would be – and then use ma'aser money for any additional amount you want to give. So if a minimal gift would be 50 – you could give 150, and count 100 of it as ma'aser money.
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