Introduction to Charity/Tzedaka

The Torah requires everyone to give charity (tzedaka), and even people who are so poor that they receive charity must also give something to charity. The giving of charity engenders consideration for people who have less than we do.

How Much To Give

Normal Donation

Charity at 10% After Taxes

You must give 10% of your net, after-tax income or received gifts of money to charity (ma'aser kesafim), by rabbinic enactment. For what is considered income, see On What To Give, below.

Maximum Donation

Charity at 20% After Taxes

You should not give more than 20% of after-tax income to charity for poor people.

Note: This rule is intended only for average people. If you have more money than you need, you may give away more than 20%.

No Charity Limit for Jewish Education

There is no limit to how much “charity” you may give to Torah institutions.

Note: You may give more than 20% after taxes for Jewish education because it is considered an investment that benefits the donor--the donor shares in the reward that the student gets for studying Torah--rather than charity.

Donation If Poor

Charity When Not Required

Even if you do not have enough income to be required to give to charity, you MAY give small amounts of money anyway. Rabbi Moshe Heinemann suggests not giving more than 0.5% of your liquid assets.

On What To Give

Give charity on 10% of your net, after-tax income or received gifts of money (cash, checks, or equivalent).

Items or Material Gifts

If you receive or inherit items or material gifts that you use, you do not need to give charity from their value. If the items or material gifts were intended for sale and you sold them, give to charity 10% of the money you receive.

Trusts, Funds, and Securities

A trust or other inherited or gifted fund does not pay charity on money it receives or earns. Only the recipients give charity, when get they get any money.

If the trusts or funds are intended for sale and you sold them, pay 10% on the value you received to charity.

You do pay 10% on inherited or gifted securities once you have inherited them, even if you do not intend to sell them. If you do not have enough cash to give 10% of the securities' value, you should sell 10% and give that money to charity. The remaining securities do not incur a requirement of owing charity, whether they increase or decrease in value in the future.

Heir: Charity on Money or Property for Sale

You must give to charity 10% of the value of an inheritance or gift of:

  • Money, and
  • Property, including a building or house, that you sell (but not if you will keep or use it for yourself, such as to live in). If you do not have enough cash to pay 10% of the building's value, you may pay it off over time.

Note: If you inherit (or will inherit) from a person who died, you are required to pay for (or help pay for) the dead person's burial. You may not deduct this money for burial or funeral expenses from your ma'aser charity.

Copyright 2015 Richard B. Aiken. Halacha L’Maaseh appears courtesy of Visit their web site for more information.

This material is provided for informational purposes only – not a substitute for the consultation of a competent rabbi.