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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Priorities in Tzedakah

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstien of Bnei Brak tells the story of a wealthy man who was blessed with a child after many childless years who approached him with the following request: He wanted to donate a very large sum to a hospital and was unsure whether to donate it to the ophthalmology wing or to the fertility wing. Rav Zilberstien referred him to his brother in law Rav Chaim Kanievsky who replied that he should contribute his gift to the ophthalmology department.

He based this on the Mishnah that enumerates the four people who are considered as dead.  They are the poor man, the leper, the blind man, and the childless. He notes that the order of the Mishnah is purposeful, and these unfortunates are listed in order of their severity. So the blind have priority over the childless.

Halacha dictates priorities in whom one gives their Tzedakah money. The Rema enumerates the order of priorities:
a) parents
b) children
c) other relatives (including a divorced wife)
d) neighbors
e) townsmen
f) Yerushalayim
g) Eretz Yisroel

This assumes that all of the above are truly poor and worthy.

Additionally, if one is faced with the choice of providing food or providing clothes he should first provide food.

However the Aruch Hashulchan explains that one cannot provide for his “priority” exclusively. Rather he should give the bulk of his money based on the above priorities, and the rest should be given to other poor people.

One more point – there is a common misnomer that the rule that you have to give at least a small amount to everyone who asks is only for Purim. In actuality this is always true. When a truly poor person comes to your door or stops you on the street and asks for a donation it is forbidden to turn him down, rather you must give at least a pittance to them so as not to embarrass them. The only exception to this may be when there is an incessant stream of people coming.

Happy Giving!!


Posted on 02/15 at 06:15 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at