The Halacha is that Jews should give as much charity that reflects their means. My question is, how is “by their means” defined? Is it a specific percentage of their income, how much value their money has in their area, etc.?


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The gemara (Baba Batra 9a) teaches that the minimum one needs to give to tzedaka is a third of a shekel a year. The SA (YD 249:2) rules accordingly and adds that one who does not give this bare minimum does not fulfill the mitzvah of tzedaka.

If one has the means, the SA (YD 249:1) writes one should give maaser at 20% ("most laudable") or 10% ("average"), based on Yaakov's promise (Bereshit 28:22). The SA explains that when a person receives capital for the first time, he should set aside maaser from the capital and then every year thereafter, set aside maaser from the revenue generated.

Today most halachic decisors write maaser is a minhag but a strong one which should be kept. For instance, R Moshe Feinstein (YD I:143) discusses how one should calculate ma’aser kesafim and whether it needs to be taken before or after taxes, but what is clear that Rav Moshe held that ma’aser kesafim should be given.

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