After shacharit today, a Jewish person came into shul asking for money to help him provide for his family. He did not have a letter from a Rabbi validating him, as some other after-davening-beggars do. I decided to give him money having in mind to deduct it from my maaser funds.

My question is: is one allowed to use maaser funds for such a case, considering one has nothing to validate the Jewish beggar but their word?

There are a few questions that relate to this one, such as:

Is charity money used for alcohol considered charity?

Is a person allowed to prejudge a beggar before giving tzedaka?

Giving charity to someone about whom the giver knows nothing?

though I didn't find that they fully answered in such a case where we know the beggar to be Jewish and most likely not using it for drugs or other illicit purposes.

Thanks in advance.

  • 2
    how were you able to determine that he is definitely Jewish? Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 15:32
  • 2
    This was in NYC: He had an Israeli accent, thanked me in Hebrew when I gave him money, talked about his children in Israel. And, though it may be racially profiling, almost all the non-Jews in this area are Dominican and native Spanish speakers. I felt these were sufficient for me, though the question is really being asked assuming the beggar is Jewish
    – Slavvio
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 15:39
  • 2
    Welcome Slavvio. Why don't the answers to "Giving charity to someone about whom the giver knows nothing?" answer this question? Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 16:26
  • 1
    This wouldn't be a Washington Heights shul by any chance, would it?
    – DanF
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:22
  • 1
    @DanF Yes it was, mount sinai. you wouldnt happen to have been at that minyan?
    – Slavvio
    Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 18:32

1 Answer 1


There are a few laws relevant to your question:

  1. It is forbidden to turn someone away. Instead, one must give at least something.
  2. One should investigate a pauper before giving a substantial gift, but need not do so for a minimal gift.

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 34:8

אָסוּר לְהַחְזִיר אֶת הֶעָנִי שֶׁשָּׁאַל רֵיקָם. וַאֲפִלּוּ אַתָּה נוֹתֵן לוֹ גְּרוֹגֶרֶת אַחַת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, אַל יָשׂב דַּךְ נִכְלָם. וְאִם אֵין בְּיָדְךָ כְּלוּם מַה לִתֵּן לוֹ, פַּיְסֵהוּ בִּדְבָרִים. וְאָסוּר לִגְעֹר בֶּעָנִי אוֹ לְהַגְבִּיהַּ קוֹלוֹ עָלָיו בִּצְעָקָה, מִפְנֵי שֶׁלִּבּוֹ נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה, וַהֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹהִים לֹא תִבְזֶה. וְאוֹי לוֹ לְמִי שֶׁהִכְלִים אֵת הֶעָנִי, אֶלָּא יִהְיֶה לוֹ כְּמוֹ אָב, בֵּין בְּרַחֲמִים בֵּין בִּדְבָרִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, אָב אָנֹכִי לָאֶבְיוֹנִים.

It is forbidden to turn away a poor person empty handed. You should always give him something, even if only a dried fig, as it says, "Let not the oppressed turn back in disgrace." And if you have nothing to give him, console him with words. It is forbidden to scold a poor person or to raise your voice to him in a shout, because he is brokenhearted and humbled, as it is said: "A heart that is broken and humbled God does not despise." Woe is to him who embarrasses the poor. Rather act towards him like a father, both in [feelings of] compassion and with words, as it is said: "I was a father to the poor."

Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 251

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: If someone comes and asks for food, we do not investigate to see if he is lying; rather, we feed him right away. If he needs clothes and asks for clothing, we investigate to see if he is lying. But if we know him, he is given clothing right away.

Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deiah, 250:7-8

אבל עניים העוברים דרך העיר והם מערים אחרות ובהם לא שייך שיתנו להם די מחסורם כמובן יש בהם שיעורים אחרים וכך שנו חכמים במשנה דפאה [פ"ח מ"ז] אין פוחתין לעני העובר ממקום למקום מככר הנלקח בפונדיון: וזהו בעני פשוט אבל כשמכירין אותו שהוא מכובד נותנין לפי כבודו ופשוט הוא דזה העני העובר ממקום למקום נצרך גם לנדבה לפרנסת ביתו או להשיא בתו וכיוצא בזה דנותנין לו גם נדבות קטנות וכן המנהג. [ערוך השולחן יורה דעה סימן רנ סעיף ז-ח] The poor passing through town, which live in other cities, and it is not possible to give them all of their needs, follow other guidelines. About these our Sages taught in the Mishneh in Peah (8:7), “A traveling pauper is given at least a loaf worth a pundeyon.” This all refers to a regular pauper. But if you know the poor person to be honorable, you should give him according to his honor. Obviously, a pauper traveling to collect funds to support his family or to marry off his daughter, and the like, is given small donations in addition to his basic needs, and this is the accepted custom. [Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh Deiah, 250:7-8]

Worth noting:

Vayikra Rabah 34:11

רַבִּי אַבָּהוּ בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אָמַר, צְרִיכִין אָנוּ לְהַחֲזִיק טוֹבָה לָרַמָּאִין שֶׁבָּהֶם, שֶׁאִלּוּלֵי הָרַמָּאִים שֶׁבָּהֶם כֵּיוָן שֶׁהָיָה אֶחָד מֵהֶם תּוֹבֵעַ בִּידֵי אָדָם וְהוּא מַחֲזִירוֹ, מִיָּד נֶעֱנַשׁ לְמִיתָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טו, ט): וְקָרָא עָלֶיךָ אֶל ה' וגו', וּכְתִיב (יחזקאל יח, כ): הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַחֹטֵאת הִיא תָמוּת Rebbi Abahu said in the name of Rebbi Eliezer: We must be grateful for the swindlers among the [poor], for were it not for the swindlers among them, then when one of the poor asked for help from someone and he turned him away, he would immediately be punished with death, as it says (Devarim 15:9), “He will call out to G-d about you [and you will (immediately) be punished for your sin].” Likewise, it says (Yechezkel 18:20), “The sinful soul will die.”

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