Volume 37 Number 87
                 Produced: Sat Dec  7 20:18:12 US/Eastern 2002

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Shaking hands
         [Yehuda Landy]
Speaking on Phone when it is Shabbat on one side
         [Bernard Raab]
Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers (5)
         [Sammy Finkelman, David Yehuda Shabtai, Joshua Hosseinof, Jay F
Shachter, Binyomin Segal]


From: <nzion@...> (Yehuda Landy)
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 17:36:29 +0200
Subject: Re: Shaking hands

> From: Yehonatan and Randy Chipman <yonarand@...>
>     Unfortunately, I never heard the Rav speak explicitly about this
> specific subject;  hence, I cannot state what his sources or reasoning
> were.  I can only try to reconstruct his reasoning, by way of
> conjecture.

With all due respect as you mention the Rov was ONE of the torah
giants. Let's keep this in proper perspective there were many other
Torah giants who opposed this view. The issue of Negiah w/o the
intention of "desire" is an old issue and it is true that some
communities (e.g. Frankfurt) were lenient on the issue. But other
gedolim forbade it, and they are the majority. Hence mentioning that a
certain rabbi permitted it does really permit it for everyone.
												Yehuda Landy


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2002 14:48:07 -0500
Subject: Speaking on Phone when it is Shabbat on one side

From: Warren Burstein <warren@...>
>>If there is an prohibition against making a phone connection, might there 
>>not also be a prohibition against breaking one, as this frees up the  
>>circuitry for another call?  In that case, you can't hang up.  And if you 
>>don't say anything, the caller will hang up, but perhaps that's permitted 
>>because you aren't doing anything yourself.<<

When the caller hangs up he only breaks his end of the connection but
your end is still "live" (i.e., at least open to your local switching
office).  When you hang up you break that connection, but you are
certainly not doing anything wrong since it is not shabbat for you.

The original question posed by "<Aronio@...> ", however is still
unanswered: Is the conversation itself (across the "shabbat
line")forbidden, however initiated? This sounds like something the
Rabbis would love to forbid as a gezera against initiating such calls,
but has anyone done so?  As a variation of this theme, it is not
uncommon for (very observant) parents in the U.S. of children in Israel
to have the child call home after his or her havdalah and record a
message of reassurance on the parents' answering machine, which the
parents may actually hear in "real time" although it is still
shabbat. In this case the child initiates the connection on his side
which is assumed to be permitted, but he also knowingly causes a
connection to be accomplished on the other side which is NOT automatic
and where it is still shabbat. Plus, he conducts one side of a
conversation across the "shabbat line", which could quickly become
two-sided if he reports something of vital interest. Should this also be


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sun, 06 Dec 02 15:18:00 -0400
Subject: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

> Having said all of that, I would appreciate clarification on the following
> points:

>     * Is there an unconditional obligation to give when approached
> on the streets?

I recall that somewhere there is a statement in teh Gemorah from a very
authoritative Amorah that it thanks to the scam artists (there is a
different and more specific to that time word used of course) that
people who don't give are all right in what they are doing.

>         * In particular, is there an obligation to give when one has
> reliable evidence (a) that the beggar is a scam artist, or (b) that the
> money would be used to purchase substances of abuse?

Definitely not. In fact that is the heter to ignore them altogether.

Of course, you know sometimes, letting someone get a substance of abuse
might be the kind thing to do. If not, what about cigarettes then? I
think it would depend on how much they are harming themselves, if
anything in the short term.

>      * Is a woman walking alone, who may very reasonably feel
> intimidated and unsafe when confronted by a panhandler on the street,
> obligated to give to that person?

You mean, in order not to be in danger, because otherwise there might be
an obligation NOT to give?

I suppose it is the person's own perception of danger that would be the
most important factor, if that is a factor.

>    * If there is not an unconditional obligation to give when
> confronted by any of the above 3 circumstances, how might one deal with
> the panhandler who has approached?

You could cross examine them or offer some food, if that is what they
are claiming they want. But if there an obligation it would only be to
not turn them down altogether - a few pennies is enough. In fact the
total obligation per year is very small - such customs as giving a
little money before Yom Kippur or on Purim (besides the Matones
L'evyonim) and other occasions Chazal created to give Tzedakah were
probably instituted so that everyone met his obligation. The percentages
are ideals. Not to go below 10% or above 20% and so on. I think the
Rambam also said that it is more meritorious to completely fulfill
somebody's need, so I think the recommended course is to give everyone
who asks (if it is genuine) a little and to some people all they are

This is all from memory.

From: David Yehuda Shabtai <dys6@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 08:49:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

    While thinking about this issue a certain gemarah comes to mind on
the last daf of the first perek of Bava Kama .  It recounts a story of
how Yirmayahu Hanavi asked HKBH to "punish" Bnei Yisrael by making sure
that the people they give tzedakah to are not 'worthy' (I don't recall
the exact wording used, but it was stated much better than I am doing
here) of that tzedakah and thereby even when Bnei Yisrael think they are
doing a mitzvah, they in fact will not be doing so.

    This raises a clear question firstly and most obviously about
tzedakah - that if a person is not 'worthy,' or poor enough, to receive
tzedakah then one accomplishes no mitzvah by doing so.  Secondly, it
raises a question in general, as to how mitzvot are defined by criteria
that we do not control.  I wanted to see what people have seen about
this sugya and how they think it relates to tzedakah and to mitzvot in

David Shabtai

From: Joshua Hosseinof <jh@...>
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2002 11:17:05 -0500
Subject: re: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

Anonymous is not the first one to raise this question.  See the Gemara
Ketubot 68a "Rabbi Eliezer says 'let us find some good attribute of
liars - if it were not for them we would be sinning every day'" The
Gemara then goes on to list several pesukim from the Torah to show what
sins one commits for "hide his eyes from tzedakah".  Rashi explains
Rabbi Eliezers statement "because we are hiding are eyes from the poor
but now with all the liars out there we are forced to".  This is also
one of the traditional answers to the question of why there is no bracha
on giving tzedaka - because we don't know if the recipient truly needs
the money.

So from the Gemara above it certainly sounds as if there is no
obligation to give to just anyone who asks, especially if many of the
panhandlers are known to be liars.  Shulchan Aruch Y"D 247-251 does not
seem to address this question however.

On Purim of course there is a requirement to give money to anyone who
asks regardless of how needy they are (but you can always put your hand
out also).

From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 10:51:34 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

Rambam rules in Sefer Zra`im, Hilkhot Matnot `Aniyyim 7:7, that you must
give the panhandler something.  In 10:19 Rambam makes it clear that God
will deal with the panhandlers who are not genuinely needy.  God does
not need us to assist Him in this detection process.

However, we are not obliged to give the panhandler money.  This is
difficult for us to understand, because we live in a society that has
been largely built by Gentiles, and in consequence we have lost the
categories of thought suitable to understanding the Torah properly.  The
Torah does not describe a money economy (neither does Rambam, for that
matter).  The Torah does not tell us, for example, to calculate the
money value of our annual income, and to give a certain proportion of it
to Kohanim, a certain proportion to Leviim, et cetera.  Rather, the
Torah gives us separate and distinct commandments for different forms of
wealth.  We have to give, e.g., some of our grain to Kohanim.  If the
grain is worked into bread (and therefore acquires increased value, due
to the additional labor expended on it), a different commandment
requires us to give some of the bread to Kohanim.  There are separate
and distinct commandments for fruit, and for livestock, and for wool,
and for other forms of wealth.

The same thinking applies to the commandment of tsedaqah.  Rambam
assumes this implicitly in 7:6 by distinguishing a stranger asking for
food from a stranger asking for clothing (the former beggar must be
accommodated immediately; the latter beggar may be required to wait
while we investigate the story).  We do not have to give the panhandler
money that can be converted into cheap wine.  The panhandler who asks
for food can be given food.  The panhandler who asks for money for the
bus can be put on the bus.  If you don't want to wait for the bus, buy
him a fare card, if your public transportation system uses fare cards.
This is, in fact, what I do.  Or, rather, it is what I offer to do.
Most of the time my offer is declined.  That's fine with me.  I haven't
violated the halakha by refusing to help a beggar, and on the rare
occasions when my offer is accepted, I know that my money is actually
going to help someone.

If I am rushing somewhere and don't have time to stop, I will give the
panhandler money.  I know that the panhandler is almost certainly a wino
and a liar.  I know it better than most people, because I usually offer
to go into the supermarket and buy the panhandler some groceries, and I
know how often my offer is refused.  But that knowledge doesn't bother
me as much as it seems to bother the anonymous contributor whose posting
initiated this discuession.  Actually, that the panhandler is a liar
bothers me more than that the panhandler is a wino.  An alchoholic who
wants money for a drink needs that drink.  He feels terrible if he can't
have that drink.  He will feel much better after he has the drink.
Certainly there is a sense in which he would have a better quality of
life, in the long run, if he stayed away from alchohol long enough to
lose his dependency on it, but that isn't going to happen.  Since the
religious Jewish community prefers the argumentum ad hominem to the
argumentum ad rem, I shall "support" my argument with the authority of
C. Everett Koop -- the former Surgeon General of the United States --
who publicly expressed views similar to the foregoing regarding giving
winos money for a drink.

The other reasons why it doesn't bother me is that we don't give
tsedaqah for the sake of the recipients, we give tsedaqah for ourselves.
God gave us mitzvot for our own benefit.  God does not need us to give
tsedaqah in order to redistribute wealth according to His plan.  The
beggar will get what God wants him to have regardless of what I do.  God
commands us to give tsedaqah because we need to do it for our own sake,
because the giving of tsedaqah has an effect on the giver which is
beneficial to him.  I know that the panhandler is going to spend my
money on cheap wine.  I give him the money anyway (when I don't have
time to buy him a meal) because if I were to walk by him without giving
him anything, it would gradually change me into someone I don't want to

The third reason why I give the beggar money is for the Qiddush HaShem.
This third reason is less applicable to women, who are not visibly
Jewish, except on hot summer days when it's kind of obvious.  But I wear
a yarmulka when I go out into the street.  When I give the panhandler
money, after literally hundreds of other people have passed him by and
ignored him, the other people on the street can see that a man wearing a
yarmulka is giving a beggar charity.  This, I hope, will lead them to
conclude something about the Jewish people, and not, I hope, that we are
sanctimonious fools, but that we are charitable and compassionate.  Who
knows but that our example may some day come back and help our people in
ways that we cannot now envision.

I'll tell you whom I do refuse to give money to, and it isn't the
panhandler on the street.  It's the man with ten children who learns in
Kollel full time, and who says exactly that when he comes into synagog
asking for money to support his family.  He, and not the goyishe addict,
is the man who deserves nothing.

			Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
			6424 N Whipple St, Chicago IL  60645-4111
			<jay@...>    http://m5.chi.il.us

From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Fri, 06 Dec 2002 00:08:33 -0600
Subject: Re: Tzedaqah Obligations to Street Panhandlers

Although there seems to be an idea of "kol haposhet yado", in practice I
do not believe that is the obligation. About 20 years ago, a number of
my friends and I who were learning in Yerushalayim were bothered by much
the same question. We took it to Rav Elyashiv. He told us that we were
NOT obligated to give ANY of the street beggers. He said that as a rule
we should assume they were indeed scamming us. We specifically asked
about people whose disablities were obvious and would prevent them from
work. He was clear that he felt we need not give them anything.

As a result of this, we indeed started saying "no, sorry." to people
that approached us, unless we KNEW they were indeed needy.

Further, given Rav Elyashiv's psak, if I do give to someone without real
solid evidence of their need, I do NOT count that money in my tzedaka
account (ie I don't count that towards my maaser obligation).

binyomin segal


End of Volume 37 Issue 87