web analytics
December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Knesset and Menorah Lawyers Called Upon to Use Their Legal Skills in Israel’s Defense

Learn about the up to the minute human rights and legal challenges facing Israel, while networking with other likeminded professionals and earning CLE credits in your jurisdictions – all at the same time



The Morality of Accepting Charity from Immoral People

We should always assume the best intentions when people are doing good things.
The SWIFT system is based in Brussels, Belgium and must comply with European Union law.

The SWIFT system is based in Brussels, Belgium and must comply with European Union law.
Photo Credit: Flash 90

Many charities and non-profit organizations have received donations from Donald Sterling (owner of the Clippers). According to public records, his foundation has distributed less than $1.5 million in the last 6 years. That’s a lot of money, but not a lot of money for a billionaire.

The $1.5 million was given to worthy organizations. Sterling didn’t give his charity to the Ku Klux Klan, he helped good organizations that helped good people. Money is useful, no matter who signs the checks.

Much has been made of Sterling’s concerted effort to control his public image using his charitable donations to paint himself as a philanthropist who genuinely cares about others. He would take out full page ads in the LA Times announcing his gifts accompanied by photos of himself. Some have even called Sterling’s charity an effort to cleanse himself of his sins by through philanthropy. As if he thought his good deeds would counterbalance his bad deeds. This might be an accurate description of his intentions. It also might not be accurate. Either way, those organizations have his money, and he has their accolades and appreciation.

Wealthy people with well known character flaws are often accused of using their charitable giving to whitewash their sins. The organizations that take their money are often accused of aiding and abetting this faux altruism and are often accused of hypocrisy.

But what should organizations do? Should they turn away donors with compromised values? Should criminals be banned from giving charity? Should immoral people be blocked from helping others? Is it moral to take money from immoral people?

As an Orthodox Jew, Halacha is the first step of analysis when I have a question of ethics like this. Jewish law actually touches on this issue and provides some guidance. The Shulchan Aruch prohibits accepting charitable gifts from Idol Worshipers. The Rema limits this prohibition to cash and allows objects to be donated by Idol Worshipers. But he concludes that it is prohibited to accept charity from a mumar (habitual sinner). Presumably, the reason for the prohibition is due to the standing prohibition against deriving any benefit from Idol Worship.

However, other authorities permit accepting charity and gifts from a mumar. The Mabit is quoted in the commentaries to the Rema as allowing us to accept charity from a mumar.

The Maharam Shick agrees with Mabit. He even says that Rambam would disagree with Rema and allow us to accept charity from a mumar. Maharam Shick cites Rambam’s permissive position regarding accepting sacrifices from a mumar, ostensibly because it may arouse the mumar to repent. Jewish law always errs on the side of assuming one’s best intentions. Similarly, Rambam famously holds that a court can physically coerce a man to say he wants to give a get because we assume his intentions are pure. He concludes that Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar for the same reason as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism. After all, maybe this charitable act will inspire the giver to become a better person.

There are also opinions that hold there is almost no such thing as a mumar nowadays. In other words, no matter what the person says or does, their charity would be accepted.

So while the Rema was reluctant to accept gifts from a mumar, others did allow it. It seems to me that according to this permissive view it would be perfectly okay to accept charity from anyone, even people who say and do despicable things. It would even be okay to accept Donald Sterling’s charity.

I think the rationale of the Maharam Shick is quite powerful. We should always assume the best intentions when people are doing good things. Charity is a good thing. It’s possible there are ulterior motives, we may even think we are certain that the motivations for the gift are not altruistic, but it does not matter.

About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “The Morality of Accepting Charity from Immoral People”

  1. Eduardo Mazo says:

    accept knowingly to unknown name…..

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
The Harvard seal, "veritas," on the side of a Harvard building.
Harvard Boycotts SodaStream (Despite Company’s Surrender)
Latest Blogs Stories
Torah scroll. (illustrative only)

Nothing binds Jews together more than Torah observance; Or so one would think.

tinsel-314750_1280

Sukkah tinsel decorations enjoy a robust market but are invariably manufactured for “another”holiday

PM Benjamin Netanyahu with Yishai and Tamar Fogel, survivors of an Arab terror attack which killed their parents and 3 siblings.

A number of Israeli papers regurgitated a biased AP article on settlement growth, but they should have read it more carefully before hitting publish.

C MAP

Many of the battles of the Maccabees were right here in the Shiloh area.

Both Labor and Likud are expected to get more seats in the upcoming elections.

Get a straight answer from Edward de Bono to the question: What is lateral thinking?

Jewish communities worldwide commemorate Yehudit during Chanukah by eating dairy foods in her honor

Israel’s problem isn’t Indyk, Obama, UN, NGOs or even the media; Our problem is much closer to home.

None of the attacks on Jewish & property should come as a surprise in light of the Temple Mount.

No surprise! Israel is now being blamed for Ziad Abu Ein’s death.

How does the new U.S. tax amnesty affect American citizens living in Israel and abroad?

The party chiefs are acting drunk and childish – making stupid mistakes and inadvertently showing their true selves – just like on Purim.

A day dedicated to Torah&tradition; a day of great joy and of great sadness- a brit and a burial.

Who was this Minister of Rage, Ziad abu Ein, and what did he do to qualify for his position as a senior minister in the PA?

JoeSettler explains the electoral mess we’re in, and a possible solution for fixing it.

When Rabbi Shafran, Chief Spokesman for Agudah talks about his own battle with heresy, that’s news.

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Fink
QuestionsandAnswers-logo

People act not because they think it’s right; they do what they do because it’s what they want to do

Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

Rambam would also allow charity from a mumar as long as the person maintains basic belief in God and Judaism.

There is no song that tells the story of freedom like Shir HaShirim.

It is unfair to judge a 52 year old man with the glasses of a person who lives in a different world.

Adegbile was not making a moral statement by representing a man convicted of killing a cop.

Women learning Torah is becoming increasingly permissive, but women wearing tefillin is becoming increasingly stringent.

When the “offensive” statements in our Talmud were stated, no one thought they were offensive.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/the-morality-of-accepting-charity-from-immoral-people/2014/05/05/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: