Ethics

For the week ending 3 November 2012 / 17 Heshvan 5773

Distributing Charity Funds

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: Together with some other people in my community I have established a charity fund to assist needy families in our midst. There is a list of one hundred such families, so we have a choice of distributing one thousand dollars to each of these one hundred families, or two thousand dollars to the fifty most needy. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: In his commentary on the statement in Pirkei Avot (3:14) that everything depends on the quantity of deeds, Rambam writes that the more times a person gives charity the more he develops his characteristic of generosity, and that it is therefore preferable to give a thousand gold coins to a thousand needy people than to give the entire sum to one alone.

Whether this rule of thumb applies as well to a situation in which one family is in greater need than another is a question which was put before the leading halachic authority Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliyashiv by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein of the Ramat Elchanan community of Bnei Brak. The response was that since all hundred are needy and are entitled to receive charity funds, there is no justification for distinguishing between more and less needy because there is an obligation on the part of the donors to the communal fund to provide for all hundred.

© 1995-2014 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at ohr@ohr.edu and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions www.ohr.edu

« Back to Ethics

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) and your donation is tax deductable.