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I seem to recall that every jew has a chezkat kashrut unless you know something would would remove it, and therefore you are obligated to believe them if they told you something (i.e. they are poor and need money). I don't know where I heard that, or if its true (if false, the remainder of the question is moot) so a source would be appreciated.

Would that make you o'ver on the lo ta'aseh of "lo posheh yado" in Devarim that says that one cannot not give to the poor if asked?

And as a more general question, does one have to believe the person if they say they are a Jew (assume they say that there is no doubt they are jewish and frum)?

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There are specific rules about believing someone who says he's Jewish, outlined in Shulchan Aruch; doubtless someone will know where in SA. If I recall correctly, it generally depends on how he first presents himself: if he comes to town claiming and seeming to be a Jew, we believe him. An extreme example: I know a synagogue whose janitor, a non-Jew from the Islands, mentioned l'fi tumo after years on the job that his mother is Jewish. The rabbi ruled that they need not believe him (he has no neemanus) and may use him as they had been for m'lacha (when allowed by halacha, natch). –  msh210 May 26 '11 at 3:11
    
Thank you. Any chance you know something about the other two points? –  soandos May 26 '11 at 3:16
    
No chance: but see Alex's answer below. –  msh210 May 26 '11 at 4:34
    
How is that not a contradiction (assuming you meant no chance to the second two, and Alex says yes to the last one? –  soandos May 26 '11 at 4:37
    
You asked whether there's any chance I know something: I responded that there's none, but Alex does. By the way, if you respond to my comments with "@msh210", I'll get notification of your having done so. (I'm not doing so now because I'm commenting on your post (question), so you'll get notification anyway. Notification is in that "StackExchange" box in the top-left corner of the page.) –  msh210 May 26 '11 at 6:07

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted
  • Giving tzedakah: True, if they are claiming to be hungry and asking for food (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 251:10). However, if they are asking for clothing (and possibly for other necessities, including money?), then you should check first to make sure he's not just pretending to be poor.

    If you're giving tzedakah to a community warden (gabbai) who will distribute it to the poor, then he is responsible for making sure that the recipients are truly needy (ibid. 256:1).

  • Claiming to be a Jew: If he says he's a convert, then we can consider him a Jew if we see him acting like one (keeping mitzvos). However, to allow him to marry a Jew, he'll need to bring some kind of evidence (ibid. 268:10). Otherwise, if we never had any reason to think that he was not Jewish, then not only do we take his word for it, but you can even intermarry with his family, since all Jewish families are assumed to have a chezkas kashrus (Even Ha'ezer 2:2).

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I realize this might sound stupid, but it would seem to me that putting off giving is the same as not giving and would also violate the lo ta'aseh. –  soandos May 26 '11 at 3:33
    
@soandos: true, but then again, part of giving is making sure that it's going to the right person rather than to a faker. The mitzvah is לא תאמץ את לבבך ולא תקפוץ את ידך - don't harden your heart and don't close your hand; here you're not doing either, just assessing the conditions under which to perform the mitzvah. –  Alex May 26 '11 at 16:29
    
You need to witnesses to establish a monetary matter. One person claiming you are obligated to give him money doesn't qualify, so that's why other considerations come into play. –  Ariel K Dec 26 '11 at 5:25

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