I have the following dilemma with my father in law. I'm stating that assuming that both men have given their 10% if a rich man gives $1000 he makes a bigger mitzva than if a poor man gives $999. My take is that Judaism is about actions and general world improvement more than intentions. So that extra $1 makes another child eat then the rich man made the world better than the poor man even with the extra effort that he endured.

Is there any direct reference in texts about bigger mitzvot being accounted on results instead of intentions?

Do the texts specifically say what would be the bigger mitzva? To elaborate further, which action is better looked in the eyes of Hashem (Which action has the bigger reward)?

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    What does "bigger Mitzva" mean?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2016 at 4:59
  • 1
    Javier, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! I hope you find good answers, that you find more Q&A of interest and stay learning with us!
    – mbloch
    May 23, 2016 at 7:04
  • God does not need the rich man or the poor man. they are just messengers
    – michael
    May 23, 2016 at 12:48
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    "Judaism is about actions and general world improvement more than intentions." Can you provide a source for this assertion? While we cannot punish someone for intent, it's clear that intentions plays a major role in the value of things. Prayer, for instance, is a situation in which intention plays a MAJOR role. May 23, 2016 at 17:44
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    Would the answer be the same if the poor man gave $10 and the rich man $10k?
    – LN6595
    May 23, 2016 at 19:37

3 Answers 3


On the contrary, intentions are what matter. A poor person doing everything he can is treated just the same by God as a rich person doing everything he can.

We can learn this from the classic statement אחד המרבה ואחד הממעית - ובלבד שיכוון ליבו לשמים (Whether one gives a lot or a little, the important thing is his intent). The source is about size of the sacrifice (Menachot 110a) but certainly applies to tzedaka as well.

  • This may be true about the reward each on gets, but is the mitzva really bigger? If you could only enable one of them to donate, you should choose the poorer one because he gets more reward for his action?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2016 at 6:45
  • @DoubleAA This is specifically brought down regarding the korbanot of the poor vis a vis the rich and the use of the term "es nafsho hu makriv." The Talmud seems to understand that while the monetary value of the acts of the poor are lesser, the qualitative value is higher since they are giving up comparatively more. Charity might be a special case, however, since we are exhorted not to impoverish ourselves through giving charity. May 23, 2016 at 17:44
  • @IsaacKotlicky I don't understand what your trying to say. Are you trying to respond to my question above? How?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2016 at 17:57
  • I'm not accepting this answer because a korban seems completely different than a donation. Hashem won't eat a day more by the size of the korban.
    – Javier
    May 24, 2016 at 3:05

On the contrary, the penultimate Mishnah in Chapter 5 of Pirqe'i Avot states (my translation):

בן הא הא אומר, לפום צערא אגרא

Ben He He says, 'According to the pain is the reward'

Since each marginal dollar from the poor man is a higher percentage of his income, he receives greater reward for nevertheless choosing to give to others beyond the letter of the law.

It should simultaneously be made clear, however, that despite the nearly unparalleled importance of ẓedaqah (charity), this miẓwah should not come at the expense of one's other obligations (i.e. one should not make oneself poor by giving away all of one's money). See the proper balance one must practice in honoring the Shabbat for a similar concept.

  • This may be true about the reward each on gets, but is the mitzva really bigger? If you could only enable one of them to donate, you should choose the poorer one because he gets more reward for his action?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2016 at 7:24
  • @DoubleAA The answer to the first question in your comment is based on the OP's original intent. I posted this answer in the absence of his answer to your comment on the question.
    – Lee
    May 23, 2016 at 7:25
  • So you admit to answering without knowing what the question was. Why are you telling me this as if it should alleviate the concern I brought up?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2016 at 7:26
  • @DoubleAA As a general guideline, is it more proper to delay answering until a question is in its final form? I'm telling you this in the hopes that it will further motivate the OP (or someone in his stead) to clarify.
    – Lee
    May 23, 2016 at 7:29
  • @DoubleAA In according with this, perhaps the question should be closed until further clarified.
    – Lee
    May 23, 2016 at 10:30

Neither would be a "bigger mitzvah" as you are calling it. One would be a mitzvah and that would be the rich man who gives $1000 and the poor man who gives away such a llarge amount of money would be taking away needed money from his family. There is a limit on how much of one's earnings one is permitted to give away especially if doing so will end up having a harmful impact on one's family which is more likely to happen to a poor person gave away such a sum of money. I don't recall the exact gemarrah that discusses this but did a quick google search and found this article which discusses this point... http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1126600/jewish/Is-There-Such-A-Thing-As-Too-Much-Charity.htm

  • Do you know for certain that such a sum would bring the poor man to such a financial state? Also, this appears to be a duplicate of my last paragraph.
    – Lee
    May 23, 2016 at 18:20
  • Someone who is considered poor in halacha is not able to provide for their own needs. This is discussed where the laws of maos chitim are discussed in regards to who receives before pesach. Someone who cannot provide for twmselves would under normal circumstances not be able ti give such as sum of money.
    – Dude
    May 23, 2016 at 18:54
  • @Dude Do you think the OP was using that technical definition of poor in his question?
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2016 at 22:07

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