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Section: Halacha   Category: Tzedoka
TAGS:Rambam  tzedaka
Rambam's 8 Levels Of Tzedoka
The Rambam writes (Matanos Aniyim 10:1) that we are obligated to be careful regarding the mitzva of tzedoka more than all the Mitzvos Aseh because giving tzedoka is a sign that you are from the righteous children of Avrohom Avinu.  Among other things he also adds that Bnei Yisroel will not be redeemed only in the zechus of tzedoka.

To put you at ease when doing the difficult task of parting with your precious money he says that a person never became poor from giving tzedoka and was never harmed by it in any way.  Furthermore if you have Rachamanus on the need Hashem will have mercy on you.  We all know going through our often times difficult lives, how much we can all use this mercy.

The Rambam says that not all tzedoka is created equal.  There is a hierarchy of 8 clearly defined levels of tzedoka.  The underlying principle of this hierarchy is to save the person who sadly needs to rely on handouts from feeling shame.  The less shame he feels, the greater your reward. 

So there is giving tzedoka and giving tzedoka.  Since the hardest part is parting with our money, once we have already decided to do that, we may as well get, literally speaking, the most "bang for our buck".

1.  "V'Hechezkata Bo" - Hold him up and strengthen him, before he falls.  A well timed loan can save a persons business and spare him from becoming poor.  Similarly, funding his business or entering a partnership with him so that he doesn't need to take you money to eat but rather to generate his own income.
2.  Double Anonymity - If he does not know who gave him the handout and you do not know who you gave it to, there will never be a moment of uncomfort when the two of you meet.  He pride while hurt by taking, will be consoled by knowing that the neighbors are looking at him.  This can be accomplished by giving to a Tzedoka fund.
3.  Anonymously Received - The next lower level is if you know the identity of the recipient but at least he does not know the identity of the donor.  This way he will not feel obliged and humiliated in your presence.
4.  Blind Giving - Even lower than the previous level but still helpful is if the recipient knows who gave it but the donor does not know the recipient.
5.  Extend Your Hand - If the recipient must confront the donor for money, you can still earn a level of merit by offering it before he actually has to ask.  The opening line is so difficult, painful, and rehearsed so many times, if you can help the recipient use it, he will breathe a great sigh of relief.
6.  Generosity - If he already asked you should give him a worthy amount.  Don't disappoint him.  That also counts for something.
7.  Graciously - If you cannot give the amount he needs and expects, at least do it with sympathy.  Feel his pain and make him feel as comfortable a possible given the trying circumstances.
8.  Just Give It! - If did not manage to achieve one of the higher levels of tzedoka, you gave too little without much sympathy, after having been begged, don't despair, you still have mitzva of tzedoka.

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