There is a general principal that one should not delay in giving once an individual has undertaken to give tzedakah otherwise he is in violation of bal t’acher (not delaying payment of a vow)(1).
If there are no poor asking for contributions, the donor may put the money aside; he or she is not obligated to search for recipients(2).
If the donor plans to give the funds to a tzedakah collector, he or she is not required to do so until asked by the collector(3).
If the donor explicitly resolves to give only as he or she comes across acceptable recipients, he or she can distribute the funds gradually as appropriate causes present themselves.(4)
If the donor resolves to give money to specified recipients, he or she does not need to distribute the funds until he sees them(5).
Tzedakah funds must be distributed before three festivals have passed(6). Some say tzedakah must be distributed by the third and sixth years of the shmitta cycle (following the years in which ma’aser ani — the tithe for the poor — is given in connection with agricultural tithing)(7). For an extensive discussion of this complicated issue see Aruch HaShulchan 257.1-8.
Rav Auerbach writes that one should resolve at the start that the distribution of tzedakah is not subject to bal t’acher. Otherwise, bal t’acher is transgressed after three festivals following the time the funds were set aside. Moreover, if there are poor people or institutions waiting (and there always are) bal t’acher becomes effective immediately unless one has explicitly resolved before-hand not to be subject to the prohibition against delay(8).
Anytime is a good time to give tzedakah, but here are some especially good ones. Click here to download a copy of our tzedakah calendar to help you keep track of those special days.
Whenever one is approached by a person qualified to receive tzedakah. It is a violation of a negative commandment to ignore a poor person asking for tzedakah and turning him or her away empty handed(9).
At prayer, especially shacharit (either at the start or at v’hacovod v’haosher in Vayivorech David)(10). It is permissible but not necessary to give at ma’ariv(11). (For a discussion of the appropriateness or inappropriateness of giving tzedakah at night, see Albert pp. 165ff.)
After a fast(12).
When one goes on a trip, it is appropriate for others to give the traveler money to distribute upon arrival. The traveler may also designate money before departure for that purpose(15).
When one eats, he or she should feed the poor. When someone locks out the poor and eats only with his or her family, there is no joy of mitzvah, only joy of the belly. The poor should be invited to participate in all simchas(16).
Prior to holidays, especially before Passover when ma’ot chittim (kimcha d’pischa, needs for Passover) should be given(17) and Sukkot (18)so that the needy can feel the joy of Sukkot — the festival know as the time of our joy. Some suggest giving on Chanukah(18).
When one has money he cannot keep and no one to give it to, he should should give it to tzedakah. An example is a physician who earns a fee from emergency treatment of a Gentile on Shabbat. The physician should give the proceeds to tzedakah (19).
Disclaimer. The information on this page is an introduction to selected topics related to tzedakah. It is designed to help individuals understand the issues and formulate questions. It is not an authoritative guide for practical personal policies with regard to tzedakah. Specific questions should be posed to a competent authority.
Notes. See Introduction and Summary for full citations of the sources.
1. Aruch HaShulchan 257:2, Albert p. 239, Domb p. 128 Return to text
2. Aruch HaShulchan 257:2, Albert p. 239 Return to text
3. Domb p. 128 Return to text
4. Aruch HaShulchan 257:3, Albert p. 239, Domb p. 130 Return to text
5. Aruch HaShulchan 257:8 Return to text
6. Aruch HaShulchan 257.1, Domb p. 128 Return to text
7. Ibid. p. 240 Return to text
8. Domb p. 24 (Hebrew section) Return to text
9. Mishneh Torah 7:2; Albert p. 120 Return to text
10. Albert p. 165, 212; Blau p. 3 Return to text
11. Albert p. 212, Blau p. 3 Return to text
12. Blau p. 4 Return to text
13. Ibid. Return to text
14. Ibid. Return to text
15. Ibid. Return to text
16. Ibid. Return to text
17. Ibid. Return to text
18. Taub p. 73 Return to text
19. Blau p. 2 Return to text
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