A Tradition of Giving


Dear Rabbi,

Why is giving charity to the poor such an important principle in Judaism?




  1. One of the most beautiful and authoritative explications of the laws of charity is presented by Maimonides (Rambam). Departing from his customary style, Maimonides does not restrict himself to listing the pertinent laws, but also discusses the merit and philosophy of the mitzvah, and the appropriate mind-set when giving charity.

    We are obligated to be careful in charity more than in all positive commandments.

    For charity is a sign of the righteous descendants of Abraham, our Patriarch … and Israel will only be redeemed through charity, as it states (Isaiah 1:27). ‘Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her through charity.’

    A person will never become poor from giving charity and no damage or anything negative will come of giving charity. And one who is merciful toward others, Heaven will be merciful toward him.”

    Divine rewards and punishments are always “measure for measure.” The reward for a mitzvah is an inevitable effect of its performance, much like the benefit that results from taking medicine or eating healthy food. By showing our loyalty to the principles of Abraham, we merit the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham. By redeeming others from the chains of poverty, we merit redemption from the chains of exile. If we are merciful toward others, God will show mercy to us. Maimonides affirms that all of this will hold true when we give charity in the appropriate way.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team