Giving support to those who are displaced because of the war in Eretz Yisrael is a great cause. We are all strongly encouraged to give what we can to help our brothers and sisters in need. The need is great, and we all have a responsibility to rise to the task. At the same time, we are still in need when it comes to all the great local mosdos and chesed; these vital causes are just as important as always. We need to continue that front as well.
While it is true that there are halachos governing the giving of tzedakah and some tzedakos take precedence over others, for the most part where one chooses to give is a personal choice. One person may give larger sums to support Torah study, others may give more to the poor, while others may prefer to help chesed organizations. Similarly, if someone wants to divert all his tzedakah dollars to Eretz Yisrael at this time, ashrecha v’tov lo. For the rest of us we should dig a little deeper to help achainu in Artzainu haKedosha while not letting go of our normal tzedakos.
– Rabbi Yehoshua Heber is rav of Khal Tomchai Torah at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and dayan at Bdatz Mishptai Yisrael.
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The Mechaber and Rema (Yoreh De’ah 251:1-14), based on various Talmudic passages, give us definitive guidelines and rulings in this matter.
First, as a general rule the poor of one’s city, aniyei ircha, take precedence over the poor of another city. Rema defines aniyei ircha as those who are residents of that city.
The Mechaber also rules: Poor who are residents of the land of Israel take precedence over the poor of the Diaspora.
He continues: One who gave [charity] money to the officers of the charitable fund, not he nor his heirs have any say in their dispensation. And the communal treasurers does with them as is good in the eyes of G-d and man.
Rema interjects: But before they have come into the hands of the treasurers, if one pledged a sum of charity without specifying a recipient it may be given to the donor’s own indigent relatives, yet such is only if he issued his own private pledge. However, if his was a communal pledge it shall go to the locale’s communal charity.
After the Mechaber lists the order of precedence of the various recipients, Rema further specifies that clothing a sage or giving sustenance to a woman [of need] takes precedence over all others.
Shach (ad. loc.), citing an earlier ruling (Yoreh De’ah 243:7), amends that pikuach nefesh – danger to life – takes precedence over all.
Indeed, the Mechaber in conclusion rules that they may redirect the charity even from being used to support Torah teaching to placating the gentile authority’s tax collectors because that [in their time] is considered hatzalat nefashot – saving of a life.
We thus see that at times we can change priorities.
Now in my own synagogue for just this reason I always encourage people when pledging to declare bli neder – without a vow. Thus, though they have made a public declaration, its force is not the same and for good purpose may be redirected.
Therefore, in our very troubling times all of the above would give us good reason to redirect our charity to the needs of Israel’s survival.
Yet, if we do so on a wholesale basis, we will cause irreparable harm to our local infrastructure. Better yet where possible to scrimp on some personal luxuries and allocate new funds to the needs of the State of Israel and its survival. May G-d protect us.
– Rabbi Yaakov Klass is chairman of the Presidium of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn; and Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at [email protected] and [email protected].
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The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 251:3) rules that the poor of one’s city takes precedence over the poor of other cities. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) also rules that the poor of Eretz Yisrael takes precedence over the poor of other countries.
That being said, we can ask at least three questions that pertain to the question at hand. First, do local causes take priority over non-local causes other than those in Eretz Yisrael, or including those in Eretz Yisrael? Secondly, does the priority of one cause over another mean that all of one’s tzedakah money should go to one cause or that most of one’s tzedakah should go to one cause and some money can still go to another cause. Thirdly, does the severity of need play a role in prioritizing different tzedakah causes?
Both the Bach (Ibid., 251:5) and the Shach (Ibid., 251:6) rule that local needs take priority over needs in Eretz Yisrael. The Chatam Sofer (Yoreh Deah 234) rules that you can support all different types of charitable causes and need not give all your tzedakah money to those at the top of the priority list. He also rules that severity of need should be taken into account, and not just whether the need is local or not.
Based on these rulings, it would seem that it is proper to reallocate some of our tzedakah contributions from local causes/recipients to needs in Israel at a time when the needs in Israel are severe, which is the current situation. That being said, we must do more than simply reallocate some of our tzedakah contributions at a time like this. We must allocate more of our funds towards tzedakah and allocate additional funds to needs in Israel. Our brothers and sisters are putting their lives on the line for the safety and security of our beloved State of Israel and its citizens. The least we can do is to push ourselves beyond our comfort level, cut back on some of our non-essential expenses, and allocate more tzedakah funds for needs in Israel.
– Rabbi Jonathan Muskat is the rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside, a rebbe at Shulamith High School, and a pastoral health care liaison at Mount Sinai South Nassau.
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Is it proper and should one do it may be two different questions. One is absolutely allowed to change tzedakah contributions from one to another. The question is, is it appropriate.
To a certain extent, there should be a priority put on a very real need that the entire Jewish nation has at a given time, and there is no question that we are in such a situation now where the state of Israel, certainly individually and as a collective people, are in danger. Additionally, Jews across the world are in a certain level of danger and we should allocate resources to that.
At the same time, it doesn’t obviate our requirements of taking care of local tzedakah requirements, too. Usually, the rule of thumb is that aniyei ircha kodmim, the poor of your city comes first, meaning it starts with your inner circle. First your family, then your local community, then your state, country, and then further out. In that sense, the obligation first would come to people locally, rather than people in Israel.
Again, under current circumstances it certainly would be appropriate to allocate a certain amount of tzedakah funds to a great cause, the Jewish nation.
– Rabbi Ben Zion Shafier is founder of The Shmuz and author of 10 Really Dumb Mistakes That Very Smart Couples Make (available at theshmuz.com).