Jewish tradition encourages those who dispense charity to investigate whether supplicants are worthy recipients, at least in some cases.
Rav Huna said: we investigate the legitimacy of a person asking for food but not one asking for clothing. This may be demonstrated with a verse or with logic. If you prefer logic: the one seeking clothing debases himself by wearing rags, but the one seeking food does not. If you prefer a verse: (Isaiah 58:7) “Are you not going to break your bread for the hungry?” The word pauros is written with the letter sin and not with the letter samach. [The word may be spelled either way. In modern texts, it’s spelled with a samach which may undercut Rav Huna’s argument.] Paros with a sin also means to search out. Later in the verse, it says “And when you see the naked, clothe him.” When you see the naked, clothe him, that is immediately. Baba Basra 9a
Rav Yehuda reaches exactly the opposite conclusion and the law follows his opinion.
And Rav Yehuda said we investigate the person asking for clothing but not one asking for food. This may be demonstrated with a verse or with logic. If you prefer logic: The one seeking food may be suffering and the one seeking clothing is not. If you prefer a verse (Isaiah 58:7) “Are you not going to break your bread for the hungry?” Slice immediately. With regard to clothing, it says “when you see the naked clothe him”. When you see that he is not a fraud. A Braisa supports Rav Yehuda as follows: if a supplicant says “clothe me” we investigate him;. “feed me” we don’t investigate. Baba Basra 9a
Maimonides’ code sticks with Rav Yehuda’s opinion.
If a poor person who is a stranger says “I am hungry, feed me.” we don’t investigate whether he is a fraud but we sustain him immediately. If he were naked and said “clothe me” we investigate whether he is a fraud. But if we recognize him, we clothe him immediately in accordance with his position and we don’t investigate him. Laws of Gifts to the Poor 87.
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