Gemilut Hasadim means giving kindness. It is a mitzvah in the Torah to “Love Your Friend as Yourself.” 1 This is the source of a broad range of behavior under the heading of gemilut hasadim. Acts of kindness or hesed make this world a more tolerable and better place and draw closer the final redemption.2
•A Person Can Help Another in a Variety of Different Ways
1. Physical help. Helping someone to lift or carry a burden. Giving someone a ride. Having and entertaining guests.
2. Mental support. Hearing someone else’s problems, empathizing with them, cheering them up and giving them a positive attitude.
3. Spiritually. Teaching them about G-d, the Torah and mitzvot. Spreading ethical monotheism.
4. Positive Speech. Recommending someone to somebody else. Helping them to find business contacts or a marriage partner. Positive encouragement and praise.
5. Monetarily. By giving someone a loan, sedakah or giving employment.
◦The Different Kinds of Hesed:
1.Hachnasat Orchim. Entertaining guests.
2.Visiting the sick. Take care of their needs; praying for them and cheering them up.
3.Hesed shel emet. True kindness. Taking care of the needs of the deceased.
4.Sedakah. Financial help to those in need. ■
•Priorities in Hesed – Who Comes First?
1. Parents. Honor your father and mother. ( Once you get married this takes 2nd place priority)
2. Husband or Wife
3. Other Relatives.
4.All Others. ◦
Tithing on Times of Yeshua
The early Jewish believers had no problem with tithing since they had done it under the Law and gave it to the priests. They simply gave their tithe to the elders of the congregation and did by love. However, as the congregation became less Jewish this issue came up to the congregational fathers. They answered the question of tithing with Matthew 23:23:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Notice Yeshua said, “You should have practiced the latter (justice, mercy and faithfulness), without neglecting the former (tithing).” The fathers argued, and rightful so, that Jesus word ends the discussion. Since Yeshua said not to neglect the former—being tithing—then no believer should neglect tithing. I wholeheartedly agree!
The problem with this interpretation is that these teachers are bringing Messiah down to the level of a Jewish prophet or Teacher of the Law. Yeshua is the Word of God made flesh, so this means every word that comes out of His mouth is eternal
No Limits on Hesed The Mishnah in Peah 5 states the following:
These are mitzvot with no maximum limits: •Peah – Separating a corner of ones field for the poor. •Bikkurim – The first fruits that a person would bring to the Temple. •Re’ayon – Visiting the Bet Hamikdash three times a year. There is no time limit on how long a person should spend in the Temple •Gemilut Hasadim – Acts of kindness. There is no upper limit on acts of kindness, it is left up to our free choice. The Mitzvah of kindness (Gemilut Hasadim) is one of the pillars on which the world stands, as Shimon Hatzadeek says in Pirke Avot 6: “On three things does the world rest: Torah; service of G-d; and loving kindness.” Sedakah is one facet of loving kindness, which is performed with a person’s belongings rather than his person. Sedakah is not only one of the facets of loving kindness but it is a mitzvah in it’s own right. Sedakah is a positive commandment, as it says “you will surely open your hand to your poor brother 7.” By hiding from a poor person a person transgresses a negative commandment of “do not close your hand from your poor brother.”
A person, if he has the means, has to provide for all the needs of the poor. If however, one does not have the means to provide for all their needs one should try and give at least one fifth of ones earnings to sedakah. The concept of tithing ones belongings and giving a tenth away to sedakah (charity) is an old one mentioned in Genesis when Abraham our forefather conquered the four kings in order to save Lot he gave one tenth of all the belongings that he had captured to Malchizedek the King of Shalem the priest to the High G-d. 9 We also find the idea of tithing by the account of Jacob when he left his fathers house to run to Haran to escape Esau’s wrath. In his vision of G-d he makes a vow that whatever G-d would give him he would give one tenth back. 10 There are mitzvot of tithing in the Torah but they all seem to deal with the tithing of agricultural produce and not tithing money. For example one tenth of a person’s crop had to be given to the Levites 11 and on the third and sixth years of the Shemittah cycle another tenth was to be separated and given to the poor, this was known as maaser ani (tithe for the poor). Tosfot 12, one of the classic Talmudic commentators, quotes the Sifri on the verse: “You will surely take a tenth of all the produce of your crops…” 13 The Sifri points out that the word ‘all’ is redundant in the verse and therefore must teach us something additional. The Sifri says that the additional law which we learn from the extra world is that of ‘maaser kesafim’ tithing ones profits whether in goods or money. The Rambam 14, Tur and Shulhan Aruch all quote this law in their books of halachah. The Shulhan Aruch 15 seems to separate this law into four categories. The ideal for a very wealthy person; the ideal for an average person; the recommended minimum for an average person; and the absolute minimum that a person should give each year.
1.If a person can afford it he should give as much sedakah as the poor require. If he is unable to give that much he should give at least one fifth. The first year from his capital, and from then on every year one fifth of his profits. One tenth is the average quantity that a person should give, less than this is miserliness. However, a person should not give less than three shekels 16 a year to charity 17. Is Tithing for Sedakah (Maaser Kesafim) a Torah Law or Rabbinic Law? The Bach 18 and other authorities 19 write that tithing ones income is neither a Torah law or a Rabbinical law, for the following reasons: 1. Most of the great early Rabbinic authorities do not bring down this law. 2. It is true that the Sifri, Midrash Tanhuma and Yalkut Shimoni all quote this law but why did the Talmud not quote it? The Talmud Yerushalmi 20 says that we are not allowed to learn halachah from stories or from additional material, only from the Talmud. 3. The law of tithing agricultural produce and giving it to the poor (maaser ani) is a law from the Torah and yet the Torah only obligates this on the third and sixth years of the shemittah cycle and not every year. If the Rabbis did make this law of tithing for sedakah based on the verse quoted by the Sifri it would be logical to make it exactly the same as the Torah law of maaser ani. 4. Even the Rambam and Shulhan Aruch who quote the law of the Sifri end off that a person should not give less than three shekels a year. We see that they hold that tithing is not a requirement of Jewish law and is therefore not obligatory. Giving three shekel a year is however mandatory, because it is a requirement of Jewish law. 5. If maaser kesafim is obligatory why do the majority of Jews not observe it, we only find that one or two people in a city give a tenth of their profits to sedakah. 6. The Talmud 21 does discuss the verse that is the source for the Sifri’s rule of tithing income and does not learn the same rule from it. Maharam of Rottenburg agrees with the Bach that Maaser kesafim is neither a Torah Law or a Rabbinical law but says that it is a custom. 22 The Tur and Rema 23 write that one is not obligated to give maaser kesafim if one cannot afford it because one is not obligated to give charity unless one has enough for one’s own needs. Whereas by maaser ani – the tithe for the poor has to be paid by everyone regardless of lack of financial resources 24. We are forced to say that maaser kesafim is not a mitzvah but a hiddur mitzvah. However the Hida – Rabbi Haim Yoseph David Azulai insists that maaser kesafim is a Rabbinical commandment that the reason most people were lenient on maaser kesafim was not because it is not a mitzvah but because most people were supporting their own children which the Talmud considers to be sedakah. Because sometimes a person can spend over one half of their earnings on expenses involving their own children. Similarly some people help financially to support their poor relatives this can also be considered part of their maaser kesafim. Therefore only very wealthy members of the community had the custom to give maaser kesafim. Even though one was not allowed to feed ones own poor parents maaser ani, the biblically ordained tithe for the poor, one is allowed to provide for ones parents from the Rabbinically prescribed maaser kesafim.
Other major authorities 25 hold that maaser kesafim is a minhag and once a person starts a good minhag with the intent to continue, or he does it three times in a row it becomes a vow 26. May a Person Support his own Children from his Maaser Kesafim? The Rambam 27 writes: A person who provides for his older sons and daughters for whom he is not obliged according to law to support, in order to teach them Torah and lead them along the right path this is included in the mitzvah of sedakah. And it is a high form of sedakah because the closest relatives take priority.
This halachah is also quoted by the Shulhan Aruh 28.
This law is based on the Talmud 29 which comments on the following verse:
“Happy are they that do justice and perform righteous deeds all the time.” 30
Is it possible to do righteousness (sedakah) at all times? Our Rabbis from Yavneh and some say Rabbi Eliezer explained that this (verse) refers to a person who maintains his sons and daughters when they are young 31. The Talmud further on 32 explains that a person has an obligation to support his children until the age of six. We can infer that past the age of six a person may support his children from his sedakah contributions. The Shach 33 quotes Maharam me’Rottenberg:
It is allowed to support ones grown children from maaser money even if he has the ability to pay for their needs without touching the maaser money, since this is also considered sedakah as mentioned later in the Shulhan Aruh. 34
The Taz however, dismisses this opinion and states that the Talmud considers supporting ones children as an act of righteousness but not an act of charity (sedakah) and one is forbidden to utilize ones maaser money for the upkeep of ones children over age six. 35 The Aruh Hashulhan 36 also prohibits a person to support his children or even grandchildren using maaser money. Otherwise no one will give a cent to the poor. A Rabbi name Moshe Feinstein 37 writes that in today’s day and age a person is prohibited from supporting his children over age six from his maaser money. His rationale is that according to Rabenu Nissim a person’s obligation to support his children under age six stems from his obligations to his wife. Since they are totally dependent on her and she cannot bear to withhold their support. Supporting them is part of supporting her. 38 In today’s society where mother and children live together in the same house and the children are unable to support themselves independently the father is also obliged to support them as part and parcel of his support for his wife. Hacham Ovadia Yosef disagrees with Rabbi Moshe Feinstein for the following reason: The Ribash and the Rosh had a similar situation as Rabenu Nissim above where a man had a child from an unmarried woman who was not his wife. They still made him pay for the child’s upkeep even though there was no contractual relationship of a ketubah but simply because of the moral obligation of it being his child. Similarly the Smag obliged a man to support his children even though he was now divorced from their mother. We see that a man is obligated to provide for his young children regardless of his contractual obligations to his wife.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel in order to enforce child support payments passed a Rabbinical edict in the 1950’s that made a man liable to support his children up to age fifteen 39 not just up to the age of six mentioned in the Talmud. Nevertheless, even after this edict, a person may deduct his child support payments from his ‘maaser kesafim’. This Rabbinical edict was not made in order to remove the mitzvah of sedakah from a father who supported his son through ages six to fifteen, but to force those fathers who would shirk their responsibilities of kindness and charity towards their own children and leave them penniless.
Rabbi Joseph Karo famed halachic authority and author of the Shulhan Aruh and Bet Yoseph in his responsa entitled Avkat Rochel 40 discusses the obligation of ‘maaser kesafim’ and concludes that the obligation to tithe one’s money applies only after paying ones household expenses. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg 41 another contemporary halachic authority concludes that since the majority of our legal decisors determine that ‘maaser kesafim’ is either a rabbinical ordinance or only a ‘minhag’ a person may be lenient and give ‘maaser’ from what is left after sustaining his household without any constraints. If a person was already accustomed to give ‘maaser’ as a percentage of his gross earnings he may annul his minhag and then only give ‘maaser’ as a percentage of his net earnings after subtracting all his household expenses. Conclusion • If a person can afford to give ten percent of his income to the poor and to support the Yeshivot he should continue to do so. • A person who tithes his income is allowed to subtract from the tithe the cost of supporting his children over the age of six, even if they are dependent on him. • Similarly a person may use his ‘maaser’ money to pay for his children’s weddings and apartments, furniture etc. to enable themselves to get established. Especially if his sons and sons in law are learning Torah, it is a tremendous mitzvah to support them honorably. • A person who, because of financial constraints is unable to give ten percent of his gross income may give ten percent of what is left of his income after subtracting his household expenses.
1. Leviticus 19:18. 2. Olam Hesed Yibaneh. Psalms 89:3. 3. Genesis 47:29. And the time drew nearer that Israel must die; and he called his son Joseph, and said to him, If now I have found grace in your sight, put, I beg you, your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me; please don’t bury me in Egypt; See Rashi; burial of the dead is true kindness. 4. ‘Do not hide from your own flesh.’ Isaiah 58:7. 5. Chapter 1, Mishnah 1. 6. Chapter 1, Mishnah 2. 7. Devarim 15:11. 8. Devarim 15:7. 9. Bereishit 14:20. 10. Bereishit 28:22. 11. Bemidbar 18:23. 12. Taanit 9a. in the name of the Sifri. 13. Devarim 14:28. At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in that year, and shall lay it up inside your gates; And the Levite, because he has no part nor inheritance with you, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are inside your gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do. 14. The laws of Gifts to the Poor Chapter 7:5. 15. Yoreh Deah 249:1. 16. A shekel is 0.6 oz of silver. At today’s prices the value of three shekel is approximately $11. 17. Baba Batra 9a. 18. Bayit Hadash Yoreh Deah end of Chapter 331. 19. Havot Yair 224 20. Peah 2:4. 21. Rosh Hashanah 8a. 22. So do Teshuva Meahava; Mishnat Hachamim; Yehudah Yaaleh. 23. Yoreh Deah 251:3. 24. Tur Yoreh Deah 331. 25. She’elot Maharam me’Rottenberg 74. She’elot Chatan Sofer 20. 26. Shulhan Aruch Yoreh Deah 231. 27. Laws of Gifts to the Poor Chapter 10:16. 28. Yoreh Deah 251:3. 29. Ketubot 50a. 30. Psalms 106:3. 31. I.e. over the age of six. Under the age of six they are still infants and he is obliged in their upkeep. 32. Ketubot 65a. 33. Shulhan Aruh Yoreh Deah 249:3. 34. Yoreh Deah 251:3. 35. Rabbi Haim Ben Attar (Otherwise known as the Or Hahaim Hakadosh famous commentator on the Torah.) strongly denounces the Taz’s view. Had the Taz seen the opinion of Maharam of Rottenburg he would surely not have prohibited this. Furthermore the Gemara (Ketubot 50a) explicitly states that supporting ones children over the age of six is considered sedakah. This gemara is explained by Rashi and Rabenu Nissim in this way and is thus codified by the Shulhan Aruh in Yoreh Deah 251:3. 36. Siman 249:7. 37. Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah Siman 143. 38. The Mishna Le Melech in Hil. Ishut 12:14 claims that this is also the view of the Rambam. 39. See Yaskil Avdi Vol. 4 Even Haezer 15. 40. Siman 3. The Hida in Birke Yoseph Yoreh Deah 249:5 questions the authenticity of this responsa even though he had a hand written and signed copy of it in his possession which was in Rabbi Yoseph Karo’s own writing. The Knesset Hagedolah Yoreh Deah 249:1 quotes this responsa in a different Rabbi’s name. 41. Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 10:6.