If someone decided to help a poor family out by giving them a substantial amount of money (years worth) and then subsequently the poor gets yerusha or wins the lottery, according to the halacha does he need to return the money?

It would seem obvious from a derech eretz ,and hakaras hatov standpoint that he should give it back,but my question is can the donor bring him to bais din and have a claim?

  • 3
    As soon as one pledges to give charity to a specific person, it becomes theirs. It is now that poor persons' money, later circumstances don't change that. Nov 22, 2019 at 1:14
  • 2
    אפילו אלף נותנים לו כאחת הרי זה יטול. Peah 8:8
    – Heshy
    Nov 22, 2019 at 1:21
  • Did they pledge to give, or did they already give?
    – DonielF
    Nov 22, 2019 at 4:10
  • Maybe one could make a complicated conditional gift like “this money is yours now I’m condition that you are below the UN defined poverty line in 7 years time”
    – mroll
    Nov 22, 2019 at 8:36
  • In Devarim (somewhere in R'eh) it says that you must supply a person "sufficient to what he is missing". Thus, even "rich" people who have a lot of money need to be given tzedaka if they are still living below their normal lifestyle that they are accustomed to.
    – DanF
    Nov 22, 2019 at 15:00

2 Answers 2


Halachically spoken he doesn't need to give it back.

Mishna Pea 8.8

היו לו מאתים חסר דינר, אפילו אלף נותנין לו כאחת, הרי זה יטול. היו ממושכנין לבעל חובו או לכתובת אשתו, הרי זה יטול.‏

Sota 21b:

What is the cunning rogue like? ... R`Abbahu says: He who gives a poor man a denar to bring his possessions to the total of two hundred zuz; for we have learnt (Mishna Pea 8.8); He who possesses two hundred zuz may not take gleanings, forgotten sheaves, the produce of the corner of the field, or the poor tithe; but should he lack one denar of the two hundred [zuz], even if a thousand persons give him [the gleanings, etc.] simultaneously, he may accept.

So, Halachically spoken he doesn't need to give it back. There is a discussion in Melechet Shelomo if the case is that 1000 persons give him simultaneously as the English translation shows or someone gives him 1000 dinar. The Tur and SA interpret the Mishna as the last case, but the Melechet Shlomo says that the first case is closest to the pshat of the Mishna. Following this Halacha, Kal vachomer if someone gives him a time before he becomes rich.

In Halacha Tur YD 253

יש לו מאתים זוז חסר דינר, אפילו נותנין לו אלף זוז בבת אחת, הרי זה יטול.‏

SA YD 253.1

ואם יש לו ר' זוז חסר דינר ואינו נושא ונותן בהם אפי' נותנים לו אלף זוז בבת אחת הרי זה יטול:‏

  • Wonderful work! I don't see how it answers, I think while they are close, the case is different.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 23, 2019 at 16:33
  • There is a relationship of implication between the two @Al
    – kouty
    Nov 23, 2019 at 16:34
  • Your Halacha deals with one who's one dollar short of crossing the poverty line - whether he can receive a $200 donation or not. I don't see where it says anything about returning the extra money?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 23, 2019 at 16:46
  • Exactly the point. Why is he a rasha arum if anyways the poor man needs to give back. You understand? @Al
    – kouty
    Nov 23, 2019 at 17:41
  • No, please elaborate. I'm not familiar with the sugyah.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 23, 2019 at 17:46

The only way of asking it back is to prove that it was given on a condition. You basically ask whether the giving was conditioned or not.

I assume that the Chazakah (the normal state of affairs) is that people give Tzedakah unconditionally, and we do follow the principle of "the burden of proof is on the plaintiff", so one who wants his money back needs to prove that he explicitly set a special condition (either in written or before witnesses).

For example that only the part of the charity that's used as long as they are below the poverty line is considered a Matana (free gift) but the part that is left when they cross the line will be considered debt.

The second part of your question is about Lifnei Shuras Hadin (whether the poor guy must be conscientious enough to return the money) the answer is that one can't claim Lifnei Mishuras Hadin in court unless it is a Paskened Halachah (as in a couple of cases with lost and found).

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