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What is one's halachic obligation based on Rambam Hilchos Matanos Anayim 10:3, "do not turn away…", when one receives tzedakkah flyers in the mail for many different types of causes?

In addition, what is one's obligation when someone is collecting on behalf of someone else?

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R Avrohom Chaim Feuer has a section on this in his book The tzedakah treasury (p. 379). He writes that

  • it is nearly impossible for the average person to expend the time, effort and money to respond to all mailings
  • authorities such as R Avrohom Pam and R Chaim Kanievski told him one has the right to ignore all mass mail solicitations and it is not considered a breach of Let not the oppressed turn back in shame (Tehilim 74:21) because there is no direct solicitation and the "mailers" expect most people to ignore them
  • even if the organization mails un unsolicited gift or stamped envelope, one can ignore the solicitation and keep the stamp for his own personal usage
  • the Debrecener Rav (Responsa Be'er Moshe vol. 4 92) rules that any letter of solicitation may be disregarded unless coming from a Beit Din of repute or from a renowned, outstanding tzadik in which case it should be acknowledged with a donation

The idea is of course to be able to channel his tzedaka funds to sources of higher priority or ones we prefer, not to donate less.

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My impression is that Rambam is discussing a person who turns away from any sort of charitable giving whatsoever, not that one needs to give to everyone who asks! (In fact we have a halacha that on Purim you're supposed to give something to anyone who asks, but year-round you're expected to do some checking whether the recipient is actually needy and will put it to good use.) If you read the chapter in context you can see that he's opening it with the general concept and attitude towards charitable giving, before getting to the technicalities of how and when.

Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz gave a lecture on practical issues in tzedaka -- I will check my notes bli neder but if I recall correctly he said it's so easy to get a letter from a rabbi, that if a tzedaka doesn't have one you should just throw the mailing in the garbage.

  • This doesn't answer the q – sam Nov 18 '13 at 17:15
  • @sam I don't see why you say that. It answer the question. Whether it is a correct answer or not is a different story. – Double AA Nov 18 '13 at 18:23

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