4

The scenario:

Last week while waiting for the NYC subway, a well-dressed woman asked me if I had a spare Metrocard swipe (the Metrocard is a prepaid fare card.) As she did not seem like a beggar, I did not volunteer a ride. I had a hunch that she just didn't want to pay the fare, not that she was too poor to afford it.

To test my thinking, I wanted to see if someone else would offer her a free swipe or was she going to go under the turnstile just as the train would arrive (illegal) and not pay the fare, anyway.

I turned out being correct. No one offered her a ride, but she entered the subway illegally.

I used this as an example of a general rule regarding beggars. Am I allowed to judge or do I have to give tzedkaa to anyone who asks as soon as he asks?

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    Perhaps she did not have money on her for any number of reasons, and did not want to enter the subway illegally, however since you did not offer her a ride she had no choice. – Gershon Gold Jun 24 '15 at 16:08
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    "do I have to give tzedkaa to anyone who asks as soon as he asks?" Why would this EVER be true outside of Purim (kol haposhet yad) and someone asking directly for food? – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 24 '15 at 16:16
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    Your question presumes that a well dressed person can not be needy, which is untrue. A person can be temporarily needy. – Gershon Gold Jun 24 '15 at 16:17
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    DanF: I am saying that her entering the subway illegally does not prove that you were correct. – Gershon Gold Jun 24 '15 at 16:26
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    related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16283/759 – Double AA Jun 24 '15 at 18:11
7

We see in the Gemara (Kesuvos 68a):

היינו דאמר רבי אלעזר בואו ונחזיק טובה לרמאין שאלמלא הן היינו חוטאין בכל יום שנאמר {דברים טו-ט} וקרא עליך אל ה' והיה בך חטא

Rabbi Eliezer says "let us find some good attribute of liars for if it were not for them we would be sinning every day".

Rashi explains Rabbi Eliezer's statement:

היינו חוטאים: שאנו מעלימין עין מן העניים אבל עכשיו הרמאים גורמים לנו

Because by closing our eyes from the poor we would be sinning everyday, but now with all the liars out there we are forced to.

From this passage of Gemara we see that nowadays there is no obligation to give money to just anyone who asks, especially if many of the panhandlers are known to be liars.

We see from the Gemara that we are allowed to prejudge someone. For the solicitor could be a fraud.

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    Wow! Fascinating source! Thank you. To think how many fraudulent beggars there were even at the time of the Gemarrah. Seems like a lot more today. Sad statement of society, no? – DanF Jun 24 '15 at 16:48
  • I remembered it was daf yomi in kesuvos, but I couldn't recall the exact source... – Isaac Kotlicky Jun 24 '15 at 17:43
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/43932/… – Yishai Jun 24 '15 at 18:17
  • "From this passage of Gemara we see that nowadays there is no obligation to give money to just anyone who asks" - Why only nowadays? – Ploni May 23 '17 at 2:02
  • The last two paragraphs seem to repeat the same thing. – Ploni May 23 '17 at 2:03
0

Yes, one IS allowed but there's a downside of it. This is the idea that appears numerous times in our sources (see the search on Sefaria) (Mishna Soytah 1, 7):

"במידה שאדם מודד, בה מודדין לו."

"for it is with the measure that a man measures to others that he himself is measured"

  1. This is a commonly known "attribution bias" when we judge other people we assign their behavior to their personality, but we experience the same situation we say it's circumstantial. So when we judge a poor person we tend to perceive his personality negatively (he's probably a liar, he's lazy, he's an exploiter etc), but we hold of ourselves differently in the same situation.

  2. THe Sages warn us not to judge others negatively, for we will not be judged negatively by other people and by the heavenly court.

  3. This is also partially backed by "תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה עִם ה"א".


A personal story where I learned not to judge people:

When I used to work in Tel-Aviv, I met an old beggar by the Diamonds exchange building. I used to give him some bills and take him to a local restaurant for a lunch. Eventually, he became ill and had one leg amputated. The next week he drove a nice electric cart which cost around $5000, so I thought to myself: "Oh, this guy's not so poor as I thought!", so I decided to talk to him and he invited me to his home. When I entered, I saw a decent Israeli flat and a nice woman greeted me "Oh, you're that Eli my husband's talking about!". So I asked what's the matter and they showed me his room, filled with mountains of plastic bags full of coins and bills he collected for years.

Turned out, he was fired but got a decent pension but felt incredibly lonely and depressed sitting home alone, so all he wanted is to find someone to talk to, so he decided to beg and dedicate all the money to the local shul. End of story.

From that time on I decided not to judge beggars.

0

There are times when we are supposed to "pre-judge".

Talmud, Bava Batra 9a

אמר רב הונא בודקין למזונות ואין בודקין לכסות אי בעית אימא קרא ואי בעית אימא סברא אב"א סברא האי קא מבזי והאי לא קא מבזי אי בעית אימא קרא הלא פרוש לרעב לחמך בשי"ן כתיב פרוש והדר הב ליה והתם כתיב כי תראה ערום וכסיתו כי תראה לאלתר ורב יהודה אמר בודקין לכסות ואין בודקין למזונות אי בעית אימא סברא ואי בעית אימא קרא אי בעית אימא סברא האי קמצערא ליה והאי לא קמצערא ליה אי בעית אימא קרא הכא כתיב הלא פרוס לרעב לחמך פרוס לאלתר וכדקרינן והתם כתיב כי תראה ערום וכסיתו כשיראה לך תניא כוותיה דרב יהודה אמר כסוני בודקין אחריו פרנסוני אין בודקין

R. Huna said: Applicants for food are examined but not applicants for clothes. This rule can be based, if you like on Scripture, or if you prefer, on common sense. ‘It can be based if you like on common sense’, because the one [who has no clothing] is exposed to contempt, but not the other. ‘Or if you prefer on Scripture’ — on the verse, Is it not to examine [paros] the hungry before giving him thy bread [for so we may translate since] the word paros is written with a sin, as much as to say, ‘Examine and then give to him:’ whereas later it is written, When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, that is to say, immediately. Rab Judah, however, said that applicants for clothes are to be examined but not applicants for food. This rule can be based if you like on common sense or if you prefer on Scripture. ‘If you like on common sense’ — because the one [without food] is actually suffering but not the other. ‘Or if you prefer on Scripture’ — because it says, Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, that is, at once whereas later it is written, When thou seest the naked, that is to say, ‘When you shall have seen [that he is deserving]’. It has been taught in agreement with Rab Judah: If a man says, ‘Clothe me,’ he is examined, but if he says, ‘Feed me,’ he is not examined.

The latter view is codified in all the major codes:

Rambam, Hilchot Matnot Aniyim 7:6

עני שאין מכירין אותו ואמר רעב אני האכילוני אין בודקין אחריו שמא רמאי הוא אלא מפרנסין אותו מיד היה ערום ואמר כסוני בודקין אחריו שמא רמאי הוא ואם היו מכירין אותו מכסין אותו לפי כבודו מיד ואין בודקין אחריו

When a poor person whose identity is unknown says: "I am hungry, provide me with food," we do not investigate whether he is a deceiver. Instead, we provide him with sustenance immediately. If he was unclothed and he said: "Cloth me," we investigate whether he is a deceiver. If we are familiar with him, we clothe him according to his honor immediately and we do not investigate the matter. (Touger translation)

Tur Y.D. 251

מי שבא ואומר האכילוני אין בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי אלא מאכילים אותו מיד היה ערום ובא ואמר כסוני בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי ואם מכירין אותו מכסין אותו מיד לפי כבודו

One who comes and says "feed me", we do not check after him whether he is a deceiver; rather, we feed him immediately. If he is unclothed and he comes and says "clothe me", we check after him whether he is a deceiver. If we recognize him we clothe him immediately according to his honor.

Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 251:10

מי שבא ואמר האכילוני אין בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי אלא מאכילין אותו מיד היה ערום ובא ואמר כסוני בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי ואם מכירין אותו מכסין אותו מיד

One who comes and says "feed me", we do not check after him whether he is a deceiver; rather, we feed him immediately. If he is unclothed and he comes and says "clothe me", we check after him whether he is a deceiver. If we recognize him we clothe him immediately according to his honor.

Levush Y.D. 251:10

מי שבא ואמר האכילוני אין בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי אלא מאכילין אותו מיד היה ערום ואמר כסוני בודקין אחריו אם הוא רמאי ואם מכירין אותו מכסין אותו מיד לפי כבודו והא דבהאכילוני אין בודקין ובכסוני בודקין איבעית אימא סברא איבעית אימא קרא איבעית אימא סברא הכא איכא קיום נשמה הכא ליכא קיום נשמה איבעית אימא קרא הכא כתיב הלא פרוס לרעב לחמך לאלתר משמע והתם כתיב כי תראה ערום וכסיתו כי יראה לך משמע כלומר שתחקור אחריו אם הוא ראוי לכך

One who comes and says "feed me", we do not check after him whether he is a deceiver; rather, we feed him immediately. If he is unclothed and he comes and says "clothe me", we check after him whether he is a deceiver. If we recognize him we clothe him immediately according to his honor. The reason why we don't check one who says "feed me" but we do check one who says "clothe me" can be either based on logic or based on a verse. It can be based on logic: here [by "feed me"] there is survival; there [by "clothe me"] there is not survival. It can be based on a verse: here it is written "is it not to share your bread with the hungry" which implies immediately. There it is written "when you see the naked that you cover him" which implies that you see him, i.e. that you investigate after him to determine whether he deserves it.

Aruch Hashulchan 251:12

אמרו חז"ל בודקין לכסות ואין בודקין למזונות כלומר דזהו וודאי דלרמאי אין נותנין כלל אך באין ידוע אם רמאי הוא אם לאו אז אם בא לבקש בגד בודקין אחריו שמא רמאי הוא משום דיכול לסבול עד כדי בדיקה אבל אם מבקש לחם אין בודקין אחריו ומאכילין אותו מיד דשמא הוא רעב וצערו מרובה

The Sages of blessed memory said: "we check for clothing but we do not check for food". This means that of course if the person is a deceiver we don't give him anything, but if it is not known whether he is a deceiver or not, if he comes to ask for clothing we check after him — perhaps he is a deceiver — because he can survive until the investigation. But if he requests bread we do not check after him, and we feed him immediately, because he might be starving and his pain would be great.

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