Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Charity and Lending Money
To dedicate this lesson

Change of Policy

Do we have to allow beggers from out of the city to come and collect donations in our city? r\Rav Neventzal answers with a story from the Gr"a.


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Shvat 4 5781
Ephraim had his fork halfway to his mouth when he heard the knock. He ambled over to the front door, and eyed the well-worn letter that was being thrust in his direction. He caught phrases such as "severe illness" and "transportation to the hospital," but his thoughts were really back at the dining room table. He deposited a few coins into the outstretched hand, before hurrying back to his lasagna.
Ephraim had just located the leftover brownies in the refrigerator, when he heard yet another knock. He opened his front door, and dutifully placed a coin into the extended palm. He quickly shut the door, retrieved the brownies, and sank into the couch. "This is just ridiculous!" he muttered, through mouthfuls of chocolate frosting. "I’m all for charity, but this is just getting out of hand!"
The next morning after davening, Ephraim decided that it was time to take action. He sauntered up to the front of the shul, banged his hand ceremoniously on the bima, and began addressing the assembled. "I’m sure you’ve noticed that, lately, we’ve been getting a lot of collectors coming around here. Of course, charity is a wonderful and very important thing. But having all these out-of-town collectors coming to our neighborhood is hurting the locals! We should be giving priority to our neighbors in need. I think it’s time that we decide, as a group, that we’re not giving to people who don’t live here. If we all do it together, those collectors will get the message, and stop coming around here!"
Ephraim’s soliloquy caught the attention of the congregants, who all began to discuss his proposal, simultaneously. The assembled hurried to express agreement, dissension, and confusion. It was at that moment that the rabbi walked in. The people turned to the rabbi and asked whether the Torah provides guidance on this matter.
What do you think? Should the community ban outside charity collectors, and only give money to locals?
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita:
A similar story took place in the time of the Vilna Gaon. The leaders were concerned, because an influx of outside collectors had led to a decrease in donations to the local poor. A debate arose among the community leaders, as to whether outside charity collectors should be allowed.
The Vilna Gaon had informed the town leaders, some time ago, that he preferred to be left out of matters of communal policy, as his extensive learning schedule left little time for anything else. He had told the leaders that he only wished to be consulted regarding the implementation of new policies.
The leaders approached the Gaon, and informed him that there was a new policy which they were considering implementing. They stated that they would like to prohibit the local community members from giving charity to itinerant collectors, in order to ensure that local funds would only go to support local causes.
Upon hearing the policy under consideration, the Gaon unceremoniously stood up, and walked out of the room! The community leaders were astounded.
One of the leaders respectfully approached the Gaon and stated "The Rav instructed us to request guidance regarding implementation of new policies."
"True," the Gaon responded, "but this policy isn’t new. It was implemented years ago, by the people of Sedom! The people of Sedom refused to give to outsiders!"
In practice, there is an obligation to give residents of one’s city more than one gives to residents of another city. However, one must give a small amount to residents of other cities, as well.
It is important to note that sometimes the gabbais of a shul will decide to disallow the placement of a tzedaka box of an outside organization on the shul premises. This is permitted. However, it is forbidden to disallow people from collecting charity in a shul.
In summary:It is forbidden to prevent people from collecting charity. To act in such a manner would be imitating the actions of the people of Sedom. However, one must give local poor people more than one gives to outside collectors.

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