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It’s All In The Giving
‘… Five Laws Require a Minimum Peruta …’
(Bava Metzia 55a)



Our Mishna enumerates five halachic matters where minimally a peruta (or its equivalent value) is required to accomplish them. One instance cited is the money required to effect betrothal.


An Omission

Maharal Diskin (Responsa Vol. 1:24) deduces from our Mishna’s notable omission of tzedaka (charity) that one may accomplish that mitzvah even when one gives less than a peruta.

Indeed, while both Rambam (Hilchos Matnos Aniyyim 7:7) and Rema (Yoreh De’ah 249:4) are very strict in adjuring that one is never to send away a poor person empty-handed, nevertheless they opt for the most lenient measure when the commodity for the charity is food.

In their view, should one give the poor person merely a grogeres, a dried fig, that too is satisfactory, even though a dried fig, in Talmudic times, was considered to be worth less than a peruta.


The Distinction

Beis Yitzchak (Orach Chayyim 21:sk2) draws a distinction between food and money (or other non edibles). He reasons that the Torah uses the term of “giving” – “nesina” – as relates to charity, “Nossan titten lo – you shall give him” (Devarim 15:10); therefore, one must give the indigent something that is minimally enough to constitute giving.

That rule will only apply when the commodity being utilized for the purpose of the charity is food; however, it now becomes clear that when giving money or any other non-food items, a peruta is the minimum required to satisfy that giving.

Rashi (Shabbos 25b s.v. “reishis degan’cha titten lo…”) explains as follows that as relates to food, the minimum relates to both a matter and a volume that constitutes food (in our case to satisfy immediate hunger – see Ta’anis 23a-b). Therefore, even though the foodstuff being given is worth less than a peruta, it is still considered to be “giving.”



What about another common measure regarding food – a ke’zayis, olive, which Rambam does not mention? Would giving that measure of food also constitute a proper nesina to the poor?

Though Beis Yitzchak would be inclined to regard a ke’zayis of food as sufficient for the purposes of charity, he nevertheless seems to infer from the Rambam that a dried fig is the base minimum (see Shabbos 91a) and, as such, to give less than that measure would not satisfy the mitzvah of tzedakah.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.