Tzedakah if translated the word on google translate into English the definition would be "charity": the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need. However, the nature of Tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word "charity" suggests kindness and generosity, a noble act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word Tzedakah in the Torah, is derived from the Shoras צ.ד.ק, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, just a simple act, something that is supposed to be second nature to us.
If a man under your authority is very poor, and he can not sustain for himself , you can not ask for money in advance or even interest, when he stays by you because you fear Hashem.
In the Torah it is even required to take הפאה the corner of your field and leave it aside for a poor person, some say you can leave it for a specific poor person but some say you must leave it for the first poor person that comes by.
We are told the exact amount someone has to be lacking in order to be considered a poor man, according to the משנה פאה someone who has more than 200 zuz is not considered a poor man and can not take לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני, which are agricultural ways to give charity.
תניא אם היה עני המחזיר על הפתחים אין נזקקין לו א"ל אין נזקקין לו למתנה מרובה אבל נזקקין לו למתנה מועטת
(1) It was taught in an earlier text: if (the poor person) was going door to door, we are not required to assist him (with charity). (Rav Sama brought up a contrary point) and said to him: When it says we are not required to assist him, it refers to a big gift. However, we are still required to give a small gift.
Although in the Gemara it seems to have written that when a poor man goes collecting for money door to door, we don't have to give him. However Rav Sama explains, what the Gemara meant was, we don't have to assist him with “Big gifts” but we are in fact required to assist him with at least something small.
אמר רבי אבא אמר רב שמעון בן לקיש גדול המלוה יותר מן העושה צדקה ומטיל בכיס יותר מכולן
(7) Rav Abba said in the name of Rabbi Shimon son of Lakish: A lender is greater than he who gives charity, and one who puts capital in the pockets of a poor person is the greatest of all
Rav Abba says, Who is greater then someone who gives charity? someone who lends money to people because you are not only sustaining them temporary but giving them potential to be able to sustain themselves in the future
*points to ponder* - i think in modern terms giving someone a job giving them potential to sustain themselves permanently would have the same great stature.
משנה תורה, הלכות מתנות עניים י׳:ז׳-י״
(ז) למעלה מזו מעלה גדולה שאין למעלה ממנה זה המחזיק ביד ישראל שמך ונותן לו מתנה או הלואה או עושה עמו שותפות או ממציא לו מלאכה כדי לחזק את ידו עד שלא יצטרך לבריות לשאול... (ח) פחות מזה הנותן צדקה לעניים ולא ידע למי נתן ולא ידע העני ממי לקח...וקרוב לזה הנותן לתוך קופה של צדקה ולא יתן אדם לתוך קופה של צדקה אא"כ יודע שהממונה נאמן וחכם ויודע להנהיג כשורה... (ט) פחות מזה שידע הנותן למי יתן ולא ידע העני ממי לקח... (י) פחות מזה שידע העני ממי נטל ולא ידע הנותן כגון(יא) פחות מזה שיתן לו בידו קודם שישאל. (יב) פחות מזה שיתן לו אחר שישאל. (יג) פחות מזה שיתן לו פחות מן הראוי בסבר פנים יפות. (יד)פחות מזה שיתן לו בעצב.
Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor 10:7-14
Pyramid of the greatness of owns tzedakah- my own summary of the text (7) The greatest level of tzedakah is to support a fellow Jew by finding him a job or offering a loan, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others. (8) The level under that would be giving money and the giver doesn't know where the money will go, and the recipient doesn't know where it came from( this is like a charity fund ). (9) The level under that would be one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. (10) A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. (11) A lesser level of charity than this is when one gives to a poor person before being asked (12) A lesser level than this is one who gives after being asked (13) A lesser level than this is one who gives less than one is able but does so with a smile (14) A lesser level than this is one who gives unwillingly
*points to ponder* - the last level which says giving unwillingly, i feel like is similar when a person gives charity on the streets but doesn't even look at the benefactors face but rather throws the coin in the cup and walks away I don't think that's a act of kindness because in the process you are dehumanizing the person.
שולחן ערוך יורה דעה, רנ״א
פרנסת עצמו קודמת לכל אדם, ואינו חייב לתת צדקה עד שיהיה לו פרנסתו ואח’כ יקדים פרנסת אביו ואמו, אם הם
עניים, והם קודמים לפרנסת בניו. ואחר כך בניו, והם קודמים לאחיו, והם קודמים לשאר קרובים, והקרובים קודמים לשכיניו, ושכיניו לאנשי עירו, ואנשי עירו לעיר אחרת
A person’s own livelihood comes before anyone else and one has no duty to give (charity) until one has one's own income. Next come one's parents if they are poor, next one's grown children, next one's siblings, and next one's extended family, next one's neighbors, next the people of one's town, and next the people of other towns. As well, the true residents of the town are the “poor of the city” and they precede those poor who come to the city from another place..
We learn from this Shulchan Aruch that one has no obligation to give until he is able to fully sustain himself, and has his own income. And then there is a order in which he should follow to know who to give too. 1. Parents 2. Siblings 3. extended family 4. Neighbors 5. one's town 6. people of other towns
*points to ponder* - I think in modern terms- someone who doesn't have his own income can mean a child or someone living under the care of a adult and does not have their own financial income.
שפתי כהן על שולחן ערוך יורה דעה
שאינו חייב כו'. דהיינו שהם יתירים על שש…..לאביו כו'. ואם ידו משגת תבא מאירה למי שמפרנס את אביו ממעות צדקה כדלעיל סימן ר"מ סעיף ה…….קודמים לעניי עיר אחרת. משמע אפי' עיר אחרת של ארץ ישראל וכ"כ הב"ח.......והם קודמים לאחיו כו'. ואיתא בספרי ומייתי לה הסמ"ג ומרדכי דאחיו מן האב קודם לאחיו מן האם ומביא' בית יוסף וד"מ
One form of assistance which the Torah mandates to be given to the needy is the mitzvah of pei'ah. The farmer must leave over a corner (pei'ah) of his field for the poor.
“When you reap your land’s harvest, do not completely harvest the corners of your fields. ... Leave them for the poor and the stranger.” (Lev. 19:9-10)
The Sages stressed that the area left over for the poor must be the very last edge harvested. One may not set aside a section at the start or in the middle of the harvesting process. Why not? By requiring pei'ah to be the final section of the field that was harvested, the Torah establishes a set time for the poor to claim their portion. The Talmud (Shabbat 23a) notes that this provision prevents four potential problems:
Stealing from the poor. The landowner could set aside the pei'ah at some pre-arranged hour, in order to make sure the corner produce will go to friends or relatives instead of the needy.
The very phrase, “stealing from the poor,” is instructive. Helping the needy is not simply a matter of generosity. It is a social and moral obligation. The Hebrew word for charity (tzedakah) comes from the root tzedek, meaning justice. One who refuses to assist the poor does not just lack the quality of generosity. He is a thief, stealing from what rightfully belongs to others!
In general, the existence of poverty in the world should not be looked upon as a purely negative phenomenon. There are many purposes to poverty, including its contribution to our spiritual growth.
Although the world might think of Jews to be stingy with money, we are actually the exact opposite, giving money is a fundamental part of the Jewish way of life. Tzedakah is so entangled in our lives that we don't even realize how much we give it. A Traditional Jewish home gives at least ten percent of their income to charity. Plus most Jewish homes have a Pushke, a box for collecting coins for the poor. We have countless Chaggim or specific times of a month, in which there is a direct obligation to give more money than usual, like Pessach, Purim, during Elul, etc. We are told that the world was built upon kindness. Tzedakah goes one step beyond. Literally translated as “justice” or “righteousness,” Tzedakah tells us that sharing what we have with others isn't something special. It's honest and just thing to do. Tzedakah is not limited to gifts of money. Sharing time, expertise, or even a kind smile are all forms of charity.