Who is to get the reward on the giving of Tzedaka, the giver or the receiver? And please, does it depend on the mood of the giver for some spiritual benefit to be granted?

  • By "mood" do you mean כוונה? – WAF Dec 6 '10 at 21:43
  • Yes, that's what I mean, "Cavanah." – Ben Masada Dec 10 '10 at 0:50
  • The required element of מצוה observance known as כוונה refers to intent, not mood. – WAF Dec 10 '10 at 1:17
  • What difference does it make, as long as the beneficiary gets what comes to him or her? That's what is important, the satisfied need of the receiver and not the intent or mood to give in the giver. – Ben Masada Dec 14 '10 at 1:33

The Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'a 247 says that the giver receives great reward.

  • In that case, the charity was given for the reward to the giver and not for the relief of the receiver. There is no merit in such a mitzvah. – Ben Masada Dec 10 '10 at 0:52
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    @Ben Masada Are you defining "merit" as distinct from "reward"? If so, by what means do you evaluate merit? If not, based on what precedent do you disagree with the Shulchan Aruch in determining Jewish law? – WAF Dec 10 '10 at 1:23
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    And indeed the Gemara (Pesachim 8a, bottom, and in a couple of other places) says that "one who gives a coin to charity 'in order that my son should live,' or 'in order that I merit the World to Come' - that is a perfectly righteous individual." – Alex Dec 10 '10 at 2:32
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    Alex, everyone merits the world to come. I don't know how is the procedure in America; I mean, in terms of money, but here in Israel, Bituch Leumi sends everyone to the Olam Habah for free. – Ben Masada Dec 14 '10 at 1:45
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    Cute. But if we define Olam Haba as the soul's closeness or lack thereof to Hashem (on a spiritual plane, of course - spatial terminology like "close" and "far" isn't really applicable, but it's what we have to work with linguistically and experientially), then this is indeed something that will vary according to the person's thoughts, speech, and deeds in life - and it's in that sense that we mean that he or she "merits the World to Come"; is his or her soul fit to, and capable of, closeness to Hashem, and to what degree. – Alex Dec 14 '10 at 21:37

The giver's mood does make a difference. Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 249:3) says (paraphrased and shortened from Rambam, Hil. Matnos Aniyim 10:4):

צריך ליתן הצדקה בסבר פנים יפות, בשמחה ובטוב לבב, ומתאונן עם העני בצערו ומדבר לו דברי תנחומין. ואם נתנה בפנים זועפות ורעות, הפסיד זכותו.

"One must give tzedakah with a pleasant facial expression, with joy and goodness of heart, commiserating with the poor person's troubles and speaking words of comfort to him. If one gives [tzedakah] with an angry and mean countenance, he loses his merit."

Further on (249:13) he says (also from Rambam, ibid. 10:14) that the lowest level of charity is giving unwillingly (which implies that this is a valid, though sub-optimal, level of tzedakah). Shach there (:9) points out that the case here is that the giver is indeed giving against his will, but at least puts on a pleasant face while doing so.

  • Alex, what is more important, the one who gives $10,000 with an angry and mean countenance or the one who gives $10 with a pleasant facial expression? The first one of course! Do you know why? Because the one who gets the charity is more important than the one who gives. A pleasant facial expression puts no bread on the table. – Ben Masada Dec 14 '10 at 1:54
  • Ben, The giver's facial expression is clearly worth something to the recipient and to the world. You assert that it's not worth $9990, which may be true in most cases, but that doesn't mean it's not worth, for example, $10. – Isaac Moses Dec 14 '10 at 7:00
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    Ben, don't you think that the poor person's self-worth and dignity is worth at least $9900? By giving him $10000 with an angry and mean countenance, you may be keeping his body alive, but at the cost of having killed (or at least badly wounded) his soul. – Alex Dec 14 '10 at 20:32
  • No, Alex, it makes no difference how the giver gives as long as he gives. The one who begs is already in a condition of shame, especially today when the Government, in general, provides through relief programs to avoid the shame of beggars. Try an experiment and ask any beggar how he feels when he is thrown at a note of a hundred dollars. His answer to you will surely be, "who cares? I got the money and he will lose some hours of sleep in grief." There is a saying that is better to give than to receive. That's true only when you want to get rid of your pennies in your pocket. – Ben Masada Dec 16 '10 at 23:24
  • Picture, for example, the time when Haman's estate was confiscated and given to Mordechai and Esther (Esth. 8:1-2). We may be sure that M&E gave tzedakah generously from their newly acquired wealth, which they wouldn't have been able to do so were it not for Haman and his evil plot. But does that mean that we credit Haman for that charity? No; in that sense he was like a tool in G-d's hands. Well, somewhat similarly (since G-d forbid we should compare a Jew to Haman) - the poor person has gotten his money and may not care how he got it, but G-d does care and take note of the giver's thoughts. – Alex Dec 17 '10 at 10:15

The Ramban states in Devorim (Perek Kof Beis, Pasuk Vov) that "there is no benefit in our keeping of mitzvos to the Holy One blessed be He." One cannot "benefit Him" or "harm Him" through the keeping or not keeping of mitzvos. He states further that our "words of praise and remembrances of his miracles are considered as nothingness and emptiness to him. All these [mitzvos] are for our benefit alone. This is something agreed upon by all our Rabbis."

So from the Ramban one can clearly see that the performer of any Mitzvah will be benefited from doing the Mitzvah. The commandments are designed to help a person develop a correct relationship to Hashem. To put in another way, each Mitzvah deals with an aspect of a persons personality and helps move the person to be in line with what is real and true. Moving the person from their illusions and fantasies to a more clearer picture of reality. This of course will help a person have a clearer and proper ideas of Hashem to the extent man can have knowledge of Hashem. This of course is one approach to Mitzvot, however, I think it is important to clarify what you mean by "spiritual benefit" in terms your mind can truly understand. Giving Tzedakah will certainly help a person have a proper relationship to his money and his possessions. It can help a person recognize that money is merely a means, not an end in itself. A person may recognize that his possessions are a means by which he can assist in his development and relationship to Hashem. Furthermore, it forces a person to recognize the needs of others outside himself. In order to relate to Hashem and an objective reality outside oneself one must be able to consider someone besides his own narcissistic subjective reality. The main thrust of my approach is to suggest ones internal attitude and philosophy is what is vital to the performance of the commandment. A monkey can pick up a Lulav, what differentiates us from the animal world is our ability to think and understand the ideas and perfection of the commandments. An approach for you to consider.
I believe the sources quoted above by the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch address the Legal aspect of your question.

  • The Rambam's point therefore, is that either we give or not, or how much we give, has nothing at all to do with HaShem. It is all between us and ourselves. To feel good and be blessed by the poor whom we gave what he needed. So, the reward is horizontal and not vertical. I mean, between the giver and receiver and not between G-d and the giver. – Ben Masada Dec 14 '10 at 2:03
  • It's the Ramban (Nachmanides), actually, not Rambam (Maimonides). But more substantively, I don't think your inference is correct. It is true that our actions don't affect Hashem "personally," so to speak, because emotions as we know them are inapplicable to Him. Nevertheless, G-d is not a "watchmaker" who created the world and left it to run on its own; He chooses to imbue our deeds with significance, and to grant us rewards (physical and, primarily, spiritual) and mete out punishments (same thing) for them as appropriate. – Alex Dec 15 '10 at 20:49
  • Alex, what are you doing? You just said above that "our actions don't affect HaShem personally." And I agree because our G-d is not an anthropomorphic god. And before your post is over, you declare that "HaShem grants us rewards (physical and spiritual) and mete out punishments for them as appropriate." Don't you realize the contradiction you are falling straight into? You could have avoided it by mentioning the law of cause and effect, which states that one reaps whatever he has sown. That's how HaShem operates: Through laws either natural, spiritual, or logically. – Ben Masada Dec 16 '10 at 23:39
  • No contradiction. The natural or spiritual or logical laws that you mention are themselves Divine creations, and Hashem could have chosen to set things up differently. Ultimately, then, the reward for a mitzvah is a gift from Hashem: "Yours, G-d, is kindness, in that you repay each person according to his deeds" (Ps. 62:13). – Alex Dec 17 '10 at 10:06
  • I am wary to stick my head between you two great philosophers, however, I think at times your disagreements stem from a difference in the way you understand the terms you are using. I also believe you two fundamentally have different world views. – RCW Dec 19 '10 at 23:58

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