By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
It is a positive Mitzvah in the Torah to give as much Tzedakah as he can. Indeed, we are commanded in this in many verses throughout the Torah.
These verses are:
1. Nason Titain – You shall surely give..(Dvarim 15:10)
2. Pasoach tiftach – You shall surely open your hand..(Dvarim 15:8)
There are three other verses as well, in which the Rambam and the Ramban debate as to whether they apply to Tzedakah. The Rambam states that they do, while the Ramban argues.
1. Vehechezakta bo (Vayikra 25:35)
2. Vechai imach (Vayikra 25:35)
3. Vechai achicha imach (Vayikra 25:36)
There are two aspects of the obligation of Tzedakah:
1. There is the general obligation to give Tzedakah.
2. There is the obligation to support the poor people of one’s town.
There is a distinction between these two aspects. Regarding the latter, he and the others who are assessed in the town must meet all the needs of the town’s poor. Regarding the former, one may choose to whom one will give to substantially or minimally.
POWER OF THE MITZVAH
Tzedakah sets aside Divine decrees (Shabbos 157b SA 247:4).
In a famine, Tzedakah saves one from death (SA 247:4) as we see in the Navi with the woman who fed Eliyahu (Malachim 17).
Tzedakah makes one wealthy (Rama 247:4).
A person never becomes poor from charitable giving. Nor does any negative thing happen from it. Nor does any damage happen as a result of charitable giving. This is on account of the verse in Yishayahu (32:17) which states, “And the action of Tzedakah will be peace.”
We see how important this Mitzvah is from the fact that it is forbidden to test Hashem in matters written in the Torah – with one exception: in the matter of Tzedakah (247:4). In Tzedakah one may test as to whether Hashem will cause you to succeed, as the verse in Malachi 3:10 states, “And you may test Me in this..” Others limit it just to Maaser but not to all categories of Tzedakah.
THE NEGATIVE MITZVOS
There is a negative commandment associated with evading Tzedakah as well. As it says,
Lo t’ametz es levavcha (Dvarim 15:7)
Lo sikpotz es yadecha (Dvarim 15:7)
The Shulchan Aruch indicates that both of these terms refer only to one negative commandment. Others, however, understand these two terms as two separate commandments.
Whoever does evade the Mitzvah is termed a Bli’al and is likened to an idol-worshipper.
CONSEQUENCES OF VIOLATING IT
One must take enormous care with this Mitzvah because it is possible to cause the death of the poor person if his needs are not met immediately, as wel find regarding Nachum Ish Gamzu.
THE THOUGHT PROCESS ONE SHOULD HAVE
Whoever shows compassion to the poor – Hashem shows compassion to him. (247:3).
The thought process that one should have is that just as he is constantly begging Hashem for assistance in his own business ventures so too should he listen to the cries of the poor. He should also realize that what goes around comes around and either he, or his son or grandson might need assistance in the future as well. Whoever has compassion for others, earns compassion from others. (Ramah 247:3).
HOW TO GIVE
- One should give Tzedakah while standing up and with the right hand. This is true even if one puts it in a Tzedakah box. If one is giving Tzedakah in the middle of prayers, however, one may remain seated.
- As soon as one has given the money to the poor person, or to his messenger or to the gabbai, one has fulfilled the Mitzvah.
- One must give charity even if it is 100 times to the same person. This does not mean with no waiting period in between. However, some authorities write that from morning to evening one is still obligated to give.
 SA 247:1
 The Steipler Rav in Kehilos Yaakov Bava Basra #8.
 Tosfos BB 8b Akfai; Lev Aryeh Chullin 110; Sefer Haflaah, Ksuvos 49a.