Posts tagged " charity "

How should I deal with panhandlers?

October 6th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Question:

What is your philosophy on panhandlers and what would you recommend one do when the city you’re in encourages people to put their money in change machines (they look like parking meters) supposedly for the purpose of helping the poor instead of giving to panhandlers directly?

John

Answer:

Dear John,

May we answer the second part of your question first? Personally, we think that governments are ill-equipped to disperse charity. We would much rather research and choose charities, preferably religious ones, knowing exactly what the philosophy of the charity is, exactly how funds are dispersed, and what percentage of donated money actually goes to the needy. So, we would pass by change machines set up by the city.

(more…)

I Give Charity but See No Blessing

September 8th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Question:

I give tzedaka (charity) every month yet there is no blessing. Why?

Asher

Answer:

Dear Asher,

All of us sometimes focus on our personal situations and end up missing the bigger picture. We’re sure you know that the blessings that come from being charitable are not in the form of a ‘pay for play’ scheme. It is not like inserting money in a vending machine and (unless the machine is broken) being guaranteed that the specific purchase you requested gets delivered promptly.

(more…)

Am I wrong to accept gov’t. assistance?

July 22nd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I have an ailment affecting daily tasks. My decline causes need for care. The system for this is through Federal assistance, etc. Were I better, I’d never ‘go on the dole’. Yet I am viewed as a taker. 

Yet, did not my folk put forth that which was placed into the chest so to speak, for such events as mine? I paid it too. Now it is my turn. Do I give it up or accept thankfully what I have?

∼ Al H.

Answer:

Dear Al,

We are very glad that you wrote us because this is one of those questions that doesn’t lend itself to thirty-second statements. For this reason, exaggerated, misquoted and misleading statements get made and repeated.

Many people are rightly concerned that the percentage of Americans who are dependent upon government is becoming larger than the percentage who are supporting themselves. This is a valid concern, however we must recognize that there is a huge difference between someone whose lifestyle choices lead them to irresponsibly take advantage of their fellow citizens and those who, for example, are members of the military getting paid by the government.

(more…)

With Charity for All? Not Exactly

July 13th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

 

Economists and politicians can debate whether extending unemployment benefits is a needed crutch in hard times or whether doing so discourages too many people from searching wholeheartedly for work. Society, though, might gain from a different approach.

It is an approach that I believe the author of the words, “with malice toward none; with charity for all,” might have appreciated.   In his second inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln hopes that the nation will care for the widows and orphans of those men who died in battle. But in other writings he emphasizes that charity (which in itself is quite a different word than today’s usage of entitlement or benefits) is not an automatic good.

In December, 1848, Lincoln wrote his father a letter saying that he was “cheerfully” sending him a requested $20. But there was another letter written to his stepbrother on exactly the same sheet of paper!  In that one, he refused his stepbrother’s application for money, suggesting that a “defect in (his stepbrother’s) conduct” would make the loan a waste of money.   

By necessity, government makes broad-spectrum decisions. It divides people into categories and then makes rules affecting large numbers.  It can only look at bodies, not at souls. Government can never know that two people will react differently to exactly the same stimulus.

Leaving aside those who deliberately abuse the system and even those who take taxpayer money without any compunction or regret, each person who is out of work or who has fallen on hard times is a complex individual. The great flaw in the government forcing one citizen to transfer money to another is that the coerced action negates the humanity of both.

By inserting itself into human interactions, the government removes the potential of charity, which is an action that is unique to humans, not to institutions. It takes away the possibility that Abraham Lincoln had, of ending his letters to both his father and stepbrother with the word ‘affectionately,’ opting to do what he felt would bring greatest benefit to both men. Perhaps most harmfully, by inserting itself as the primary resource, government shatters relationships and human interactions, impoverishing us all.