When we give tzedekah we remember that:
“Whoever is generous (is gracious) to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 19:17)
While doing some homework reading for the Temple Academy (offered by Joseph Good of HaTikva Ministries at jerusalemtemplestudy.com) about Maimonides, the following information was gleaned and we felt compelled to share about it.
Maimonides (aka “RaMBaM”), one of the most influential Torah Scholars ever, wrote in his ever famous Mishneh Torah regarding tzedekah. In the section entitled “Hilkhot Matanot Aniyim” (Laws about Giving to Poor People), Chapter 10:7–14, he establishes eight degrees of giving tzedekah. Most preferred is the first level, while the eight level is least desirable.
- Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
- Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion
- Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient.
- Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
- Giving tzedakah before being asked.
- Giving adequately after being asked.
- Giving willingly, but inadequately.
Giving “in sadness” (giving out of pity): It is thought that Maimonides was referring to giving because of the sad feelings one might have in seeing people in need (as opposed to giving because it is a religious obligation). Other translations say “Giving unwillingly”
We urge you to consider the eight levels listed by Maimonides and consider whether you are a giver and what your motivation is for giving (or not giving). We leave you with the words of the Psalmist: