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Reuven is planning a trip to Israel. Shimon, knowing this, gives Reuven money for tzedakah with the expectation that Reuven will distribute it when he gets to Israel. Reuven and Shimon both regularly support Israeli institutions.

Why do we do this? Is there some extra benefit to Reuven because he is participating in Shimon's mitzvah? Does Shimon benefit because Reuven might choose a recipient that Shimon hasn't previously supported? Is there particular value to cash donations (versus the checks Reuven and Shimon use for their other tzedakah)?

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Safety. Someone else will probably give a full answer, though, before I get to my computer. –  Seth J Jun 21 '12 at 18:33
    
"Is there particular value to cash donations (versus the checks Reuven and Shimon use for their other tzedakah)?" Kesubos 67b says that direct donations are better than indirect ones (e.g. food over money to buy food). Cash seems more direct than a check, so maybe it is a levela bove checks. –  b a Jun 21 '12 at 18:36
    
@SethJ beat you to it :P –  Dov F Jun 21 '12 at 18:38
    
related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/3780/… –  Menachem Jun 22 '12 at 20:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 9 down vote accepted

There is a concept from the Gemara (Pesachim 8a) known as שלוחי מצוה אינן ניזוקין - mitzva messengers are not harmed. When one is going on a trip that involves potential risks, some are of the custom is to give them a small amount of money to give to charity at their place of destination, so that they are effectively turned into "mitzva messengers" until they arrive, and thus they are accorded this extra heavenly protection.

This being the case, I don't see a difference between cash and checks, or Israel and other destinations. As long as a mitzva of some sort is being sent to the destination, the special protection should apply.

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+1. And in particular it's for trips anywhither, not just to Israel. –  msh210 Jun 21 '12 at 19:11
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I was going to say perhaps msh210 meant particularly places other than Israel because someone going to Israel might be considered a שליח מצוה even without bringing along charity money.Is there a mitzva of going to Israel (just as a trip)? I guess that's a question for itself. –  Dov F Jun 21 '12 at 19:54
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...seems that there are definitely mitzvos involved: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/8178/… ...though I don't know if these things would render someone a shliach mitzvah. –  Dov F Jun 21 '12 at 20:04
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Wow, I hadn't heard the "safety" reason before. Thanks! I thought it must be about providing some benefit as opposed to warding off harm (which is also a benefit, but you know what I mean I hope). –  Monica Cellio Jun 22 '12 at 2:54
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and the rest of the sentence is "lo b'yitziatam o bchazaratam" teaching that you don't have to get another 'dollar' for the way back! –  arnie draiman Jul 1 '12 at 2:51

Just to add to @DovF's answer. It would seem that making the person your emissary to do any mitzvah would accomplish the same thing, since the main thing is that, as your emissary, he is protected from harm. (see my answer here)

However, Tzedakah has an added benefit of "saving one from death", as the Talmud (Shabbat 156B) tells us.

So you get the double protection of "Shlichut" and "Tzedakah".

I don't have a source for this, just something I once heard.

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Thanks for the helpful addition! –  Monica Cellio Jun 22 '12 at 2:56

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