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Chapter 34: 4-6
The Laws Pertaining to Tzedakah

4. How much should a person give to tzedakah? During the first year, he should give one-tenth of his principle. Afterwards, he should give one-tenth of the profit he makes each year (after deducting his household expenses*). This is an average measure. The most desirable way of performing the mitzvah is to give one fifth of the principle in the first year, and then one fifth each year from one's profit.

* {These parentheses were omitted from many texts of the Kitzur Shulchon Oruch. However, the Lemberg printing, which is accepted as being accurate, contains them. Other halachic authorities are more stringent and require a tithe to be given from one's entire income before deducting one's living expenses. See Misgeres Hashulchon 4.}

Nevertheless, a person should not give away more than a fifth, lest he himself later require other people's assistance. This restriction applies only during his lifetime. However, on his deathbed a person can give away up to a third of his property to tzedakah.

One should not use his tithes to perform a mitzvah - e.g., to donate candles to the synagogue or to perform other mitzvos. Rather, they should be given to the poor. If the chance to perform a mitzvah present itself - e.g., to circumise one's son, to help provide for the marriage of a poor bride and groom, or the like, and similarly, to buy sacred texts to study from and to lend to others to study from - if one does not have the means and would not be able to perform the mitzvah from his own money, he may use his tithes for that purpose.

If he used his tithes to purchase sacred texts, he must take care to lend them ot others - when he does not need them, for he receives first priority. He should also write in them that they were purchased with his tithes, so that after passing his sons will not regard them as their own property.

5. A person who seeks merit should constrain his evil inclination and open his hand. Every thing which is done for the sake of heaven should be done in the best and nicest manner. If one builds a synagogue, it should be nicer than one's home. If one gives a hungry person food, one should feed him from the best and sweetest foods on one's table. If one clothes a naked person, one should clothe him from the finest garments in one's wardrobe. If one [desires to] consecrate something [for charity], he should consecrate the choicest of his possessions. Thus, [Leviticus 3:16] states: "All the fat shall go to G-d."

6. A person who provides for his older children whom he is not obligated to sustain (i.e., those above six years old) in order to teach his sons Torah and train his daughters in a proper path, and similarly, one who gives presents to his father (whom he can sustain only from his tzedakah money) - should they require it - may considered these expenses as tzedakah. Furthermore, he should give these individuals precedence over others. Even someone who is neither so or a father - merely a relative - receives priority over others.

The poor of one's household take precedence over the poor of one's city, and the poor of one's city take precedence over the poor of another city, as implied by [Deuteronomy 15:11]: "[Open your hand generously] to your poor and destitute brother in your land." Nevertheless, the manager of a charitable fund should take care not to give his relatives more than other poor people.

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Halacha-Yomi, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.

 
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