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rambam says that you should give to family first.

my question is what if the family does not know how to manage money? what if i know that if i give my family money, they will waste it and suddenly not have enough for food/education for children?

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I imagine the same question would apply to any potential recipient. –  Isaac Moses Jan 26 '11 at 15:09

3 Answers 3

The Gemara says that when you give a person charity, if he is used to eating expensive meat then you should give him according to what he is accustomed to. This would imply that it is still considered charity even if to me and you it seems wastefull.

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@gers great answer –  avrohom Jan 26 '11 at 15:57
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I object - the Gemara says for a fellow who grew up well-to-do but has since fallen on hard times (ani ben tuvim), you should provide him with all sorts of things. HOWEVER, it then notes that this assumes you have the funds. The question here is, when prioritizing recipients in a zero-sum fashion, can you take into consideration how well they'll use it. –  Shalom Jan 26 '11 at 16:39
    
1 - When we are talking about charity I would always assume the giver has the funds or else how is he giving? 2 - Wasteful and self detrimental are 2 different things. Suppose a person buys a nice cut of meat, you may say it is wasteful however it would not be self detrimental. Yes if it is an alcoholic using it for more whiskey it is self detrimental and wasteful too. 3 - The way I read this question is when I consider something wasteful (no mention of self detrimental) shouls I still give my family first? And to that I stand by my answer of Yes. –  Gershon Gold Jan 26 '11 at 17:23
    
@Gershon It's probably reasonable to distinguish between extravagant ways of filling of one's needs (e.g. high-quality food and transportation) on the one hand and wasteful, non-necessary spending (e.g. gambling, entertainment, alcohol even not in the presence of alcoholism) –  Isaac Moses Jan 26 '11 at 18:29
    
@Gershon - meaning, "when the tzedaka has the funds to provide him will his normal comforts, after addressing the basic needs of everyone else." –  Shalom Jan 26 '11 at 18:31

See Prisha, Tur Even HaEzer 71:1.

In theory, family has priority with regards to charity. However, the standard obligation of child support is only until age 13 (note: twentieth century rabbinic authorities have raised it to 15 or 16, see Yechaveh Daat 3:76 and similarly this). It was assumed that the average "grown-up" child, in most cases, could fend for themselves (including begging, if needed), thus there is no blanket obligation to support one's adult family. In the unfortunate case that they would not be able to do so, then their charitable cause would have priority over a random stranger's. All else being equal, is how I read it.

There are cases where people will use their received charity simply unwisely; sadly there are cases where it would actually be self-detrimental. It should be remembered that the goal here is to help people, and sometimes the best way to do so is to say "no." The Talmud says the reward for truly helping someone sick (which may involve changing their bandages and hearing them scream, or being called all sorts of names because you won't give in to their pleas for a cigarette) is friends like Na'aman's, who got him cured [by telling him no], and not friends like Rehoboam's yes-men who caused him to lose half his kingdom.

I think each case may have to be decided on its own merits; a rabbi who understands the particulars of the situation may be helpful, and lastly, it's possible that certain questions of tzedaka prioritization are actually up to the giver's sense.

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I have heard that in the current generation where it is normal for children to go to school at least through high school the obligation is till 18 –  Gershon Gold Jan 26 '11 at 17:07
    
@Gershon, possibly. Rav Ovadiah quotes Rav Hertzog and others who only did 15 or 16, but everyone agrees, the goal is "until they're chai nosei es atzmo", able to fend for themselves. –  Shalom Jan 26 '11 at 17:24

Practically speaking, in many cases you can give it to them in a way where there's (more-or-less) a guarantee that it won't be wasted. For example, give them actual food, or a check towards their children's tuition (made out to the school).

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+1, and if possible, go one step further: go grocery shopping with the family member. Spending time with someone who is hurting financially can also make the person feel better. Helping that person make better purchasing choices will help their budget in the long term (and they have to listen to your advice, since you're paying at checkout). I know it's not always feasible, but if it is, this kind of assistance is more meaningful for both giver and receiver than sending a check. –  user1095 Jan 25 '12 at 17:37

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