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Jewish Charity

When, in a settlement in the land that G-d your Lord is giving you, any of your brothers is poor, do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously... Make every effort to give him, and do not feel bad about giving it, since G-d your Lord will then bless you in all your endeavors, no matter what you do. The poor will never cease to exist in the land, so I am commanding you to open your hand generously to your poor and destitute brother in your land. Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 15:7-11

When you lend money to My people, to the poor man among you, do not press him for repayment. [Also] do not take interest from him. Shemot (Exodus) 22:24

When you reap your land's harvest, do not completely harvest the ends of your fields. Do not pick up individual stalks [that have fallen]. Do not pick the incompletely formed grape clusters in your vineyards. Do not pick up individual [fallen grapes] in your vineyards. [All the above] must be left for the poor and the stranger. Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:9-10

Levels of Tzedakah (Charity)
Certain kinds of tzedakah are considered more meritorious than others.

How to give charity, from the most meritorious to the least meritorious:

  1. Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
  2. Giving when neither party knows the other's identity
  3. Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity
  4. Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity
  5. Giving before being asked
  6. Giving after being asked
  7. Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully
  8. Giving begrudgingly

Where and Who to give charity to, in order of priorities:

  1. Family and close relatives
  2. Local Jewish community
  3. Jewish community in Eretz Israel
  4. Jewish communities worldwide
  5. Local community in general
  6. International assistance to needy people

Before sending donations to anybody consider the following story:

In early 1995, my grandfather gave me most of his money to be distributed to charity in Israel. He also provided me with a list of 227 charities that had received money from him in the past. He told me to research these organizations, and decide who and how much each one should receive.

About six months later, my grandfather passed away. Between 1995 and 2000, I distributed all the money as instructed by my grandfather. Most of the 227 charities were found to be lies. Instead of finding an orphan home for children, or a yeshiva, I found several people with large houses and new cars.

The lesson from this: do not donate money to anybody unless you are sure the money will be used for its intended purpose. Even better, you can help without giving money. For example, if someone wants money for books, give him the books, not the money. Visit the elderly at an old age home, or spend your time with people who need it.

If you want to help the State of Israel, you can buy yourself a home in Israel, or come to Israel once a year on vacation until you make Aliyah. Buy products made in Israel. And if you don't have much money you can help the entire Jewish Nation by learning Hebrew, studying Torah, and reading all about Israel.

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