Posts tagged " charity "

Forty years later, we still disagree about tithing.

December 29th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 20 comments

I know tithing is important for God’s blessing on my family finances. However, my husband refuses to tithe. 

Before the Covid curse overtook our country, he had, finally, begun to give  $50 per week, some weeks. I begged him for most of our 40-year marriage to tithe. He has always said we cannot afford to tithe. 

I have felt so hopeless because he is in charge of all the money. I have worked a little over the years, allowing me a small SS income of $674 per month. I do tithe on that now. 

I have some resentment toward my husband. I have prayed all these years for God to change his heart in this area. He is a Christian and wouldn’t miss church. He has a moral compass facing due N. He has been a deacon for many years. He is very knowledgeable of the Bible. He’s read it front to back several times. He says tithing is OT and not required under the grace of the NT. Do you have any wisdom for me?


June P. 

Dear June,

In all honesty, much of what we have to say will be more helpful to newly married or about-to-be-married couples than it might be to you. In more than 40 years of marriage, we imagine that you and your husband have navigated a number of difficult situations. Without making light of your feelings, you most probably have learned techniques for turning resentment into acceptance and moving on in a healthy way. 

One question we urge you to ask yourself is why this long-standing problem is hitting a sore spot now. You opened your letter to us by saying that tithing is important for God’s blessing on your finances. Are you worried about money in a way that you previously weren’t? If so, those concerns should be aired in your marriage. 

We would word our views on tithing (or giving charity) in a different way than you do. We believe that, among many other instructions, God tells us that not all of our money actually belongs to us. At least 10% is given to us in order for us to give it away. While we think (and we elaborate on this in the book, Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money) that being generous and giving often helps one make more money, it is not a case of quid pro quo. A society in which people tithe will be more prosperous. While most individuals also will do better, it isn’t a magic formula for making money, but something we do because it is the right thing to do.

Since our area of wisdom is only from the perspective of ancient Jewish wisdom, we cannot comment on your husband’s theological understanding of tithing. As the upright and religious man you describe him to be, he firmly trusts that he is doing the right thing. Is there a religious mentor that you can both speak to who might help you understand this view?  

The issue that your letter does raise is how important it is to set up financial understanding from the outset of a marriage. When the husband is earning the living and the wife is running the home, the money belongs equally to the two of them. If two partners run a store together and one mans the counter and makes sales while the other does the marketing and maintenance, the one who handles the cash is not the “owner” of that money. In the same way, finances belong to the couple. From day one, whether or not you worked, you should have had the freedom to do as you wished with a certain amount of the money brought into the house, as he should have as well. While your husband may not feel that tithing is necessary, we assume he would not have objected to you ear-marking some of your portion of the funds for charity. 

Our impression we have, which might be mistaken, is that you almost feel that you are being punished in some way for 40 years of not tithing. We are quite sure that God smiles on happy marriages, so while charity might be important, so is staying true emotionally to the man in your life. 


Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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My Wife Objects to My Charitable Giving

November 10th, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Thanks for the opportunity you give for questions, I have long been reading and studying the Jewish wisdom from you and it’s quite interesting. My question is that for many years I have lived a life of having human sympathy when it comes to charitable contributions. As I write to you now, with my less income I have an orphan in school and a widow I care for.

I have been challenged by my wife to stop bringing financial burden on the family, but that is the only source of Joy I derive in life.

How can I take this vision to the next level?

Jonathan A.

Dear Jonathan,

We have just published an ebook called, The Holistic You: Integrating Your Family, Finances, Faith, Friendships & Fitness. (Go HERE to get your free copy.) We thank you because your question is a perfect example of why these five areas need to be seen together, rather than separately.

You mention that the charity you give is an expression of your human sympathy.  What is more, you write that the giving you do brings you your only joy.

Let’s look at both those statements. If you are a person of faith, then charity is actually an obligation, not an expression of an emotion. Whether or not we feel like giving some of what we earn to others is irrelevant. Most of us do feel happy when we do something for other people, but our responsibility to do so is independent of how it makes us feel. Our emotions don’t decide what we do; even if giving makes us feel deprived, we still must give. God lets us take a 90% commission on what we make, but the remaining 10% does not belong to us. Feeling sympathy for others is a fine trait, but how one acts on that sympathy is what defines us.

It seems that you are pitting faith, finances, and family against each other, rather than letting them work together. If you can say that the only source of joy in your life has nothing to do with marriage and family, then you really need to work on your marriage and family. Instead of charity being a shared activity with your wife as you together choose where your donations should go, you are demeaning your wife by making your “joy”  compete with her reality.  (Susan here: If I heard my husband say that his “only joy” was in something external to our marriage and family, I would be crushed.) We have no way of knowing if your family is actually suffering because you are giving away more than you should or whether your wife only feels that way, but in either case, you need to step back and change what you are doing. It sounds to us like you might have been neglecting your role as a husband.

Whatever charity you give must be given by you and your wife as a couple. Any money you earn belongs to the two of you. If you are giving more than you can afford because it brings you joy, then although it may be more socially acceptable than breaking your budget and causing your family to suffer because you get joy from buying designer clothes or fancy cars,  it does share a similar self-centeredness.

All we have to work with, Jonathan,  is what you wrote. It seems that your income has diminished and you, independently of your wife, decided how to function within your lessened means. You put something “off the table” rather than working together to cope with your new circumstances.

In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for ‘charity’ explicitly suggests obligation rather than an emotional response. The Bible is clear on to whom to give, how to give, and indeed how much to give. Neither too little nor too much.

Perhaps we are being harsh. We encourage you to direct your finely tuned sense of compassion and empathy first to your wife and family and only then extend the circle of sympathy outwards to others.

May you find joy from your marriage,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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I want to be smart in my charitable giving. Can you help?

January 1st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 17 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I have a question for you and I hope you can guide me through with ancient wisdom.

Let’s say that  I have decided to donate  a certain portion of my income to charitable causes… So one day while standing in the pharmacy I see a person in need to get medicines for $50. Would I be a better human being if I decide to use my 50 dollars helping one individual that I come across in person or by sending my 50 dollars to an overseas region where I could potentially help 50 people to get something like sandals or penicillin?

What is your insight into this?

Juan Manuel M.

Dear Juan Manuel,

We love this question for so many reasons. First of all, we think highly of our readers/listeners and your question provides a wonderful example of why we are correct to do so. Not only do you want to be charitable, which is a good thing in and of itself, but you want to do so in the smartest way. Rather than simply trusting your emotions or giving just in order to feel virtuous, you want to ensure that you are actually helping the most you can.

Let’s make a case for each of your choices. There is something wonderful about a person-to-person connection.  Seeing someone in need and helping them directly and immediately is tremendous. The individual feels the concern of another human being and the knowledge that you made an impact on someone’s life has a positive effect on you, most likely making you more prone to give again. In the example you gave, you even know that the money is not going to support a drug habit or to buy liquor. You are providing someone with needed medicine. Furthermore, you are not burdening your gift with the administrative overhead which is an inevitable part of organizational charity.



How much help is too much help?

January 23rd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

Huge fan here – Thou Shall Prosper has changed my life, and I continue to be inspired by Ask the Rabbi and Susan’s Musings.

My question is, as a follower of God, am I a hypocrite for not wanting to help someone in need? I’ve recently become acquainted with a woman who has severe emotional problems related to anxiety and trauma. She refuses to get professional help but simultaneously expects other people to take care of her many needs.

The lady she is staying with has a weekly prayer meeting at her home on Sundays, and she is afraid to be in the house during that time because of her fear of crowds and people. Last Sunday I took her with me to a part-time job, but this week I really felt I needed my Sunday free as it is my only day off. The homeowner told me she is putting the woman up in a hotel since I’m not available to take her.

How much help is too much? Having been treated for anxiety myself, I understand that someone can be extremely fearful of everyday circumstances, but if she can’t ride the bus to a coffee shop for a few hours or take a walk in the park while the prayer meeting is going on, how much can another person do for her? Should I be expected to give up my one day off every week to babysit a grown woman, and should my friend be expected to use her own money to put her in a hotel?

I’m torn between feeling anger and judgment toward this lady as well as feeling like a hypocrite both because I know what it is like to suffer from anxiety and because people also opened their homes up to me through house sitting jobs when I was first new in town. I can’t help thinking that but for the grace of God, I could be in her shoes, so I feel incredibly guilty for thinking she needs to “woman up” and take care of herself.

Feeling hypocritical and very un-Christlike,


Dear Cindy,

We shortened your letter because of space restrictions, but you gave a number of examples of how difficult this woman is and how no matter what you or others do for her it is never enough. The problem you are facing is one that, we believe, most good people run into during their lives. As good, God-fearing people, how can we turn away from those in need?

Truly, only you can answer that question for yourself, perhaps with guidance from a religious leader or wise mentor, but we can make a few comments.

Have you ever worked with pie or pizza dough? You need to roll it or stretch it into shape, but if you yank too hard, you will make holes rather than produce a smooth, satiny surface. Gently tugging at different areas gives the desired result; forcing the dough doesn’t work.



Loans with no payback? The Shemitah Year

July 26th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 12 comments

I’ve read a lot of your books, yet didn’t see you ever speak about this particular thing: 

Reading the Books of Law, I see quite a few mentions about helping out the poor. Not by giveaways, but by lending them what they need (Deut. 15:7-8). It would seem to be logical to give away, But Scripture says, “Lend,” and then, every seventh year you should forgive the debt if that is not paid. 

My questions is: I’d never think that the Bible would endorse free-rides or parasitism, but I can’t find the Bible speaking harshly to the borrower. It is quite demanding—you must give, if they don’t pay—you must forgive. Seems like license for a free-ride. I borrow, do not pay, they must forgive, and then, when I come to borrow again, they must give again… Can’t believe it to be what the Bible means to say. Could you, please share more light on that? Thank you.



Dear Victor,

How should a society deal with money? After thousands of years of human history, we are still trying to figure this out. Should it be, “From each according to his ability to each according to his need,” as Karl Marx wrote? Should we follow Ayn Rand’s vision where only those who produce survive and charity is a vulgar concept?

In our opinion, the closer countries get to the Biblical vision, which neither of the above mentioned authors did, the stronger the society will be. Yet, the Biblical vision is complex, and while it includes the verses you quote, that is not by any means the entire story.



How should I deal with panhandlers?

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


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?



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.



I Give Charity but See No Blessing

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


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



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.



Am I wrong to accept gov’t. assistance?

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


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.


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.



Good Christians: Bad Christians – Originally published on Aug. 26, 2009

January 2nd, 2011 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

Sunday’s paper had a complimentary article about Richard Stearns, head of the Christian World Vision organization, known for tackling issues of worldwide poverty. It described Mr. Stearns’ transformation as a young man from agnosticism to committed Christianity and how his religious principles spurred him to leave a successful corporate position and use his skills for non-profit charity work.

Why then did I feel insulted after reading this article? Quite frankly, I felt that my Christian friends, quite a few of whom work for and support World Vision, were being given a back-handed compliment.

In the months following 9/11, the New York Times ran obituaries for every victim of the World Trade Center destruction. In the usual style of obituaries, they accentuated how loved the person was and in what ways he or she contributed to the world.

One of those obituaries was so bigoted and foolish that I read it a few times to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding. Unfortunately I didn’t cut it out so I can’t quote it exactly, but the insulting message that was conveyed was that John Doe was a charitable, generous man despite the fact that he was an active Republican.

Perhaps if I hadn’t seen that obituary or a continual stream over the years of subtler but incredibly smug assertions that conservative Christian or Republican equals mean-spirited, I wouldn’t have had any reaction other than finding this Sunday’s article interesting. But experience has left me with sensitized antennae.

So, it was disturbing to me that after paraphrasing Mr. Stearns’ book as saying that Christians have focused overly much on personal salvation and judging others rather than caring for the poor (and his book certainly might say this – though I do wonder if the emphasis is that of the article’s author rather than the book’s – I would have given more credence to a direct quote) the author of the Sunday piece quotes “the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical leader” as saying for years that a change like that was coming. A quote later in the article from James Wellman, associate professor of American religion at the University of Washington says “younger evangelicals, in particular, are more internationally savvy and less addicted to the culture wars of previous generations.”

The message I heard? There are those “good Christians” who give charity and fight world hunger and then there are those “bad Christians” who are sticklers for theology and have a pesky habit of refusing to adjust their values to the latest liberal moral agenda. Richard Stearns is one of the “good Christians” though to be fair, the article does mention that World Vision employees (perhaps, the reader might be led to ask by the tone of the article, over Mr. Stearns’ objections?) sign an article of faith that includes a code of conduct that disallows both adulterous and homosexual behavior.

I don’t know Mr. Stearns nor have I read his book. But, as I said, I know many of his employees. They are charitable, humanitarian people. Their charitable spirit and adamantly conservative social views stem from one and the same place – their belief in God and His Bible. I know that they would not rank Rev. Wallis as a pastor they are comfortable having speak for them.

I have the unusual experience for an observant Jew of having spent time with men like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson as well as thousands of less well known Christians. It may not fit into the prejudiced stereotypes of liberal America, but these people give their money, time and effort helping human beings of all colors and nationalities around the world. They also attend pro-life rallies and vote their values. They spend their vacations going on missions providing dental and medical care or sweat equity building homes in South America and Asia. They also oppose homosexual marriage. This is not an either/or situation. My guess is that many, and perhaps overwhelming numbers, of the kindhearted and generous folk who cause organizations like World Vision to flourish are those whom a biased media frequently denigrates without ever bothering to actually get to know them. That “bad Christian” group might possibly even include Mr. Stearns himself.


With Charity for All? Not Exactly

July 13th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 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.



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