Background on Tzedakah
To whom do we give tzedakah?
"The tendency. . . prevalent in much of the contemporary Torah world, in Israel as in much of the Diaspora, of almost total obliviousness to non-Jewish suffering is shamefully deplorable"
- R Aharon Lichtenstein, Jewish Perspectives on the Experience of Suffering (p. 59) as quoted in R Aharon Lichtenstein's Jewish Philanthropy - Whither? p. 196 of Toward a Renewed Ethic of Jewish Philanthropy
"For committed Orthodox Jews - and, a fortiori, for serious bnei Torah - the utter dismissal of universally oriented hesed as an expression of avodat Hashem cannot be accounted a live option"
- R Aharon Lichtenstein, Jewish Philanthropy - Whither? p. 198 of Toward a Renewed Ethic of Jewish Philanthropy
"I am firmly convinced that, for the foreseeable future, an inward-looking focus - to which, under ordinary circumstances, I am committed - should continue to characterize our philanthropy policy. Concurrently, I contend that our community needs to be more forthcoming in recognizing the needs of others and responding to them more generously than we are currently doing."
- R Aharon Lichtenstein, Jewish Philanthropy - Whither? p. 209 of Toward a Renewed Ethic of Jewish Philanthropy
רמ"א יורה דעה הלכות צדקה סימן רנא סעיף ג
הגה: 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. והוא הדין אם היו שבוים וצריך לפדותן.
Investigation / research into recipients
"The crux of ethical living in general, and of philanthropy in particular, is the problem of priority - at once the tragedy and the challenge, the bane and the glory, of groping and coping, within the context of confrontation, with choice. "מרובים צרכי עמך ודעתם קצרה, Many are the needs of your people, and their minds limited," intones the lament and plea of the piyut... [W]e are impelled - at times against our better judgment or inclination, and with little penchant for possibly supercilious evaluation - to grade. Moreover we frequently are constrained to grade not only individuals but their contexts - with whom they associate, which causes they espouse and possibly represent, what will be the likely result of our predilection."
- R Aharon Lichtenstein, Jewish Philanthropy - Whither? p. 202 of Toward a Renewed Ethic of Jewish Philanthropy
Purim and the obligation to give to all
How much tzedakah should (must?) we give?
Not just a per cent?
"With respect to the preferable direction of contemporary Jewish philanthropy, I trust I have adequately clarified that I believe it should be animated, inter alia, by a principled recognition of universal responsibility for zedakah and gemilut hasadim, to be reflected, in some measure, by efforts to respond to that obligation; but that in practice it should focus primarily upon meeting Jewish needs. However, insofar as I have emphasized the importance of contextual judgment in the light of significant variables, I have fallen short of unequivocal delineation of the precise optimal balance some readers may have sought."
- R Aharon Lichtenstein, Jewish Philanthropy - Whither? p. 215 of Toward a Renewed Ethic of Jewish Philanthropy