Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - A Hardened Heart
A Simple Jew asks:
It seems that sometimes there is a misperception that a person who is paid to learn full-time in kollel is living a parasitic existence. A person who is antagonistic to the kollel system faults the system and the person learning in kollel for having a large family. This antagonistic person may even unmercifully turn down requests for financial assistance from these families who are suffering from poverty because it goes against his principles.
The Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 251:10 states that if a person approaches us asking for clothing we must investigate whether he is truly in need, however, if a person comes to us and ask for food we should simply give it to him without investigating.
What are your thoughts about the mindset that prevents a person from helping a hungry person because intellectually he has a problem with how that needy person is living his life?
Dixie Yid answers:
Rav Mordechai Kornfeld asks an interesting question. He points out that, " וְשׂוֹנֵא מַתָּנֹת יִחְיֶה." "One who despises gifts will live." (Mishlei 15:27).
He pointed out that the "concept of 'one who despises gifts will live' seems to contradict the general Mitzvah of giving Tzedakah. Whenever a person gives Tzedakah to a poor person, he is actually harming the poor person by shortening his life by causing him to accept a gift! Similarly, how can it be permitted to give money to support Talmidei Chachamim if 'one who despises gifts will live!'"
Rav Kornfeld answered that "[t]he Chida (in Teshuvos Chaim Sha'al I:74:42) answers based on the view of the Rishonim... that when the giver has intention to receive personal benefit from giving the gift, then it is not considered a gift. By giving Tzedakah to a poor person or by supporting Talmidei Chachamim, the giver receives tremendous reward for his Mitzvah, and thus it is not considered a gift since the giver also benefits from it."
This insight of the Chida reminds us of a fact that people so often forget, which is that recipients of Tzedaka are not moochers, sucking the money and resources away from the real "producers" of the world, i.e. those people that make a significant amount of money. Rather, tzedaka recipients, in general, give more to the "givers" than they actually receive. For the recipients of tzedaka only receive money. Whereas the givers receive eternal reward from their kiyum hamitzvah, fulfillment of the mitzvah.
We can also see that Tzedaka, from the perspective of truth, benefits the giver more than the recipient, from the following exchange between Rebbi Akiva and Turnus Rufus Harasha in Bava Basra 10a, "שאל טורנוסרופוס הרשע את ר"ע אם אלהיכם אוהב עניים הוא מפני מה אינו מפרנסם א"ל כדי שניצול אנו בהן מדינה של גיהנם." "Turnus Rufus, the wicked, asked Rebbi Akiva, 'If your G-d loves the poor, why doesn't he support them?' Rebbi Akiva answered him, 'In order to save us, through them, from the judgment of Geneinom."
People are sometimes hesitant to support impovrished kollel families because they blame those people's kollel choices for their poverty. This is mistaken for another reason. Hashem judges us mida k'neged mida. Hashem acts toward us as a sort of reflection of how we act. So if we carefully scrutinize the whys and wherefores of why poor people are poor as a pre-condition to whether or not we help them with their parnasa, then Hashem might, Chas v'shalom, treat us the same way. He may, based on such an attitude, scrutinize us much more and if we are found not to deserve our parnasa, he will withhold that from us! I know that I would not want to invite such scrutiny onto myself by subjecting others to it.
This discussion came up in the comment section of a post I put up, quoting an e-mail I received from someone who was shocked at another person's backward attitude to the giving of tzedaka.
The bottom line is that if there are people who legitimately need support to keep a roof over their head and food on their table, we have no right to deny them those necessities because we disagree with their decisions. Here are a few mekoros, sources from Mazon.org's website to keep in mind on this topic:
-Midrash Vayikra Rabba 34:14
Some say that careful inquiry should be made in regard to beggars who ask for clothing, but no inquiries should be made in regard to food. Others say that in regard to clothing also no inquiries should be made.
-Midrash Vayikra Rabba 34:4
If the rich man says to the poor man, "Why do you not go and work and get food? Look at those hips! Look at those legs! Look at that fat body! Look at those lumps of flesh!" The Holy One, Blessed be He, says to the rich person, "It is not enough that you have not given him anything of yours and helped him out, but you must set an evil eye upon (make fun of/mock) what I have given him, must you?"
-Rambam, Mishnah Torah - Hilchos Matnos Ani'im 10:15
"הנותן מזונות לבניו ולבנותיו הגדולים שאינו חייב במזונותן, כדי ללמד הזכרים תורה, ולהנהיג הבנות בדרך ישרה ולא יהיו מבוזות, וכן הנותן מזונות לאביו ולאימו--הרי זה בכלל הצדקה; וצדקה גדולה היא, שהקרוב קודם." "One who feeds his adult sons and daughters, who he is no longer obligated to support, in order that the men can learn Torah, and in order that the daughters can be brought up in the proper way, without humiliation, and one who feeds his mother and his father; these [cases] are included in the concept of tzedaka. And it is a great form of Tzedaka because relatives come first." (This is in response to some who claim that individuals who support their children's learning take away resources that they would have given towards other needy mosdos in their own communities.)