At what point is one obligated to ask for tzedakah? If one sleeps in a car are they obligated to ask to sleep in an apartment?

How about food? If one has a minimal subsistence level may one refuse to ask for food? If one doesn't have hot food does one need to ask for Shabbos?

  • Welcome to MiYodeya Benjamin and thanks for this first question. Can I recommend you take the tour to get a sense of how the site works? Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Jul 15, 2019 at 13:25
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    Interesting question but it would be stronger if you established there is an obligation to ask for tzedakah at all. Then you can ask about border conditions
    – mbloch
    Jul 15, 2019 at 13:35
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    עשה שבתך חול ואל תצטרך לבריות
    – Double AA
    Jul 15, 2019 at 13:37
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    To follow up on the comment from @DoubleAA about when to accept charity for Shabbos meals, see Mishna B'rura (242:1) who elaborates and says that a person who is in dire straits but has just enough money to buy two basic meals for Shabbos should get by on his own dime (and if possible exert himself to buy 3 meals worth plus something nice, like a little fried fish for example). But for someone who is already at the point that he must rely on charity, the charity fund is required provide him with at least enough for three meals and some fried fish. (I know this only addresses your last point).
    – Fred
    Jul 15, 2019 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


You asked: At what point is one obligated to ask for tzedakah?

As documented by the Rambam (Hil. Matnos Aniyim 10:19) and codified by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 255:2):

A person is obligated to ask for charity if he would be endangering his life by not doing so.

And if he doesn't ask for charity - and suffers bad health or worse - then he's considered a murderer.

Interestingly enough the Be'er Heitev (S"A Y"D 255:2:1) and Shach (ibid) both say that this injunction to ask for charity includes somebody who cannot marry off his daughters due to financial woes.

BTW: Other "more fortunate" people may be allowed to take charity, but anyone who needs to take and endures hardship, presses himself, and lives a life of hardship so as not to burden the community will not reach death in old age without being able to sustain others from his wealth.
- As per the last Mishna in Peah (8:9):

Sources - from Sefaria:


(Hil. Matnos Aniyim 10:19)

כָּל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לִטּל וּמְרַמֶּה אֶת הָעָם וְנוֹטֵל אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁיִּצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת. וַהֲרֵי הוּא בִּכְלַל (ירמיה יז ה) "אָרוּר הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בָּאָדָם". וְכָל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִטּל וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִחְיוֹת אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נוֹטֵל כְּגוֹן זָקֵן אוֹ חוֹלֶה אוֹ בַּעַל יִסּוּרִין וּמֵגִיס דַּעְתּוֹ וְאֵינוֹ נוֹטֵל הֲרֵי זֶה שׁוֹפֵךְ דָּמִים וּמִתְחַיֵּב בְּנַפְשׁוֹ וְאֵין לוֹ בְּצַעֲרוֹ אֶלָּא חַטָּאוֹת וַאֲשָׁמוֹת. וְכָל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִטּל וְצִעֵר וְדָחַק אֶת הַשָּׁעָה וְחָיָה חַיֵּי צַעַר כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יַטְרִיחַ עַל הַצִּבּוּר אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁיְּפַרְנֵס אֲחֵרִים מִשֶּׁלּוֹ. וְעָלָיו וְעַל כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה נֶאֱמַר (ירמיה יז ז) "בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה'":‏
סְלִיקוּ לְהוּ הִלְכוֹת מַתְּנוֹת עֲנִיִּים בְּסִיַעְתָּא דִּשְׁמַיָּא‏

Anyone who does not need [tzedakah] but deceives people and takes will not reach death in old age without having come to depend upon others [in reality].197 For such a one fits the type: (Jer. 17:5) Cursed is he who trusts in man [and does not heed divine providence]. And anyone who needs to take [tzedakah] and cannot live without it unless he takes, such as an elderly person, a sick person, or one who has many afflictions, but whose mind is full of pride and will not take is like one who sheds blood, is guilty of his own death, and gets nothing for his hardship except sins and guilt. But anyone who needs to take and endures hardship, presses himself, and lives a life of hardship so as not to burden the community will not reach death in old age without being able to sustain others from his wealth. Of him and those like him it is written, (Jer. 17:7) Blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
Thus ends, with the help of God, the laws on gifts for the poor.

Shulchan Aruch

(Yoreh De'ah 255:2)

כל מי שאינו צריך ליטול מהצדקה ומרמה העם ונוטל אינו מת עד שיצטרך לבריות וכל מי שצריך ליטול ואינו יכול לחיות אלא אם כן יטול כגון אזקן או חולה או בעל יסורין ומגיס דעתו ואינו נוטל הרי זה שופך דמים ומתחייב בנפשו ואין לו בצערו אלא עונות וחטאים וכל מי שצריך ליטול ומצער עצמו ודוחק את השעה וחי חיי צער כדי שלא יטריח על הצבור אינו מת עד שיפרנס אחרים ועליו הכתוב אומר ברוך הגבר אשר יבטח בה':

Whosoever is not in need of charity but deceives the public and takes it, will be in actual need before his days are ended. And whosoever is so much in need of charity that he cannot live unless he receives it—as, for instance, a man who is old or sick or in constant pain,—but takes none out of pride, is guilty of bloodshed and is responsible for his own life; so that he has nothing for his suffering, save punishment and sin. But, whosoever is in need of charity and suffers patiently and leads a pinched and humble life, so as not to become a burden to society, will live to help others someday; and it is with reference to such a person that the Bible says, "Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord."

Last Mishna in Peah

(Peah 8:9):

מִי שֶׁיֶּשׁ לוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים זוּז וְהוּא נוֹשֵׂא וְנוֹתֵן בָּהֶם, הֲרֵי זֶה לֹא יִטֹּל. וְכָל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לִטֹּל וְנוֹטֵל, אֵינוֹ נִפְטָר מִן הָעוֹלָם עַד שֶׁיִּצְטָרֵךְ לַבְּרִיּוֹת. וְכָל מִי שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לִטֹּל וְאֵינוֹ נוֹטֵל, אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁיְּפַרְנֵס אֲחֵרִים מִשֶּׁלּוֹ, וְעָלָיו הַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה' וְהָיָה ה' מִבְטַחוֹ (ירמיה יז). וְכֵן דַּיָּן שֶׁדָּן דִּין אֱמֶת לַאֲמִתּוֹ. וְכָל מִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ לֹא חִגֵּר, וְלֹא סוּמָא, וְלֹא פִסֵּחַ, וְעוֹשֶׂה עַצְמוֹ כְּאַחַד מֵהֶם, אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה כְּאֶחָד מֵהֶם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טז) צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף. וְכָל דַּיָּן שֶׁלּוֹקֵחַ שֹׁחַד וּמַטֶּה אֶת הַדִּין, אֵינוֹ מֵת מִן הַזִּקְנָה עַד שֶׁעֵינָיו כֵּהוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כג) וְשֹׁחַד לֹא תִקָּח כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר פִּקְחִים וְגוֹ':‏
סְלִיק מַסֶּכֶת פֵּאָה

One who has fifty zuz and he is using them for his business, he must not take. And anyone who does not need to take [charity] and yet takes, will not depart from this world before he actually needs [charity] from others. And anyone who needs to take and does not take, will not die of old age until he supports others with his own money. Concerning him the verse says: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7). And so too a judge who judges in truth according to its truth. And anyone who is not lame or blind but pretends to be as one of these, he will not die of old age before he actually becomes one of these, as it is said, “He who searches for evil, it shall come upon him” (Proverbs 11:27) and it is also said: “Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue.” And any judge who accepts a bribe or who perverts justice will not die in old age before his eyes have become dim, as it is said: “And you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of those who have sight.”

Be'er Heitev

(S"A Y"D 255:2:1)

זקן. או שיש לו בנות רבות ואינו יכול להשיאן ולפרנסן אא''כ יטול. סמ''ג וסמ''ק:‏

Shach - Sifthei Kohen

(S"A Y"D 255:2:1)

זקן או חולה כו'. או שיש לו בנות רבות ואינו יכול להשיאן ולפרנסן אלא אם כן יטול. סמ"ג וסמ"ק סי' רמ"ז:‏

  • 2
    To be clear "who cannot marry off his daughters due to financial woes" means that no man will propose to them because she's so poor (and thus she might end up old, single and homeless), not that she has a fiance and the parents really want a nice party.
    – Double AA
    Jul 16, 2019 at 12:32

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