Avoiding and refusing acceptance of charity

When is one to refuse charity, when is he praised for doing so, and when is he obliagted to accept it

Avoiding and refusing charity:

One who takes from charity unjustifiably:[1] Anyone who is [financially stable and] does not need to take from charity and fools others to thinking that he is poor and thus takes charity from them, then he will not die without becoming poor, and needing the charity.

Getting a job so one is not a burden onto the public:[2] A person should always distance himself from taking charity, and should even painfully support himself[3] rather than need to take from others. [In spirit of this ruling we find that] the sages[4] said “Better to make your Shabbos like a weekday than to request charity from others.[5]” Even if one is an honored Torah scholar and became poor, he should rather work in the most undignified of jobs, than to receive from charity.[6]

Distancing oneself from taking charity even if one is in need:[7] Anyone who is eligible to receive from charity and pains himself and lives a low income and painful lifestyle in order not to place his burden on the public, will not die until he becomes wealthy enough to support others. On him the verse[8] states “Blessed is the man who places his trust in G-d.” [This also fulfills the Midas Chassidus [i.e. act of piety] of not accepting presents, and rather to trust in Hashem that He will give one that which he lacks.[9]] However, one who is truly in need of charity and literally cannot live without taking from charity, and is stubborn and refuses to take, then it considered as if he is spilling his own blood, and is liable for his own death [lit. Mischayev Binafsho], and only gains sin[10] out of pushing himself into this pain.[11] Anyone who is old, sick, [handicapped], or under a chronic state of suffering, and is in need of charity to support his basic needs, is required to accept charity, as stated above.[12] Likewise, one who has many daughters and cannot afford to marry them all off without taking from charity, is required to do so.[13]

 

Summary:
It is forbidden for one who is financially stable to take charity. One who does so, is cursed to become poor and be truly in need of charity. Even one who is eligible to receive charity, should push himself and work any possible job to support himself, rather than take from charity. This applies even to a Torah scholar, and even if the job is demeaning. One who is need of charity and refuses to accept it, choosing to live a very minimalist lifestyle, is praised if he can support his basic needs without the charity. Such a person will not die until he becomes wealthy. If, however, he cannot support even his basic needs without the charity, then he is required to receive the charity, and if he does not do so, he is responsible for his own suffering and is considered to have sinned.

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[1] Michaber 255/2; Rambam end of Matanos Aniyim; Last Mishneh in Peiah

[2] Michaber 255/1

[3] Literally “Should roll himself in pain in order so..”

[4] Pesachim 113/a

[5] Michaber ibid; Admur 242/6

[6] Michaber ibid; Pesachim ibid; Bava Basra 110a

[7] Michaber 255/2; Rambam end of Matanos Aniyim; Last Mishneh in Peiah

[8] Yermiyahu 17/30

[9] Admur Hilchos Mechira 9 [same exact wording as Michaber brought next]; Michaber C.M. 249/5; Kiddushin 59a regarding story with Rav Gidal who refused to receive a present of property from Rav Aba; See Aruch Hashulchan 249/4 for why this ruling does not contradict the ruling of “Zachin Leadam Shelo Befanav”

The reason: As the verse [Mishlei 15/27] states “Hasoneh Matanos Yichyeh.” [Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Kiddushin ibid] One who accepts presents can lead him to chase after money and steal or become dishonest. Avoiding presents emphasizes one’s integrity. [Mefarshim on Mishlei ibid] Likewise, people are usually in search for money to feed themselves and their families, and on this the verse teaches that on the contrary, one who does not accept presents lives. The reason for this is because one who accepts presents is now “bribed” against chastising the giver for wrongdoing and he gets into the habit of flattering people. [Smeh 249/4; See also Shiyurei Bracha Y.D. 255 that Torah scholars who ask to be supported by the wealthy desecrate the Torah, and cause the wealthy to lose respect for Rabanim.] 

[10] lit. “Avonos Uchataim”

[11] Michaber ibid; Rambam; based on Yerushalmi

[12] Michaber ibid

[13] Shach 255/1; Semag and Semak 247

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