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Percentage of income to tzedaka (charity)

Nov 18th, 2008 by yrobkin | 2

Dear Rabbi Yogi,

My wife and I made a commitment this Rosh Hashana to give more charity. What is the correct amount of money to give to charity? Is there a certain percentage of my earnings that I should be giving?

Jacob G.

Dear Jacob,

We, as Jews, are obligated to give 10% of our earning to tzedakah (charity). This mitzva is called maaser in hebrew, which translated means 10%. However, we do not calculate one’s earnings based on salary, but one’s take home check after taxes have been payed. So, if you and your wife bring home $100,000 combined after taxes you will owe $10,000 to tzedaka.

The challenge facing many Jews is that after hearing a big number like $10,000 a year for charity it becomes increasingly hard to actually dig into your pockets throughout the year and give away that money. My advice is to set up a maaser account at your bank. You can have them automatically transfer 10% of your paycheck to that other account, or you can do it yourself. Either way, by setting up another account you feel that the money in that account does not belong to you at all, and it actually becomes very pleasureful to decide how you will distribute your maaser and aid the many worthy Jewish organizations in Dallas and around the world!

Just remember, the only money in your spiritual bank account in the world to come is that money that you parted with and gave to tzedaka. So, go ahead and become a spiritual millionaire!

Wishing you much success in keeping your Rosh Hashana commitment,

Rabbi Yogi

2 Comments on “Percentage of income to tzedaka (charity)”

  1. arnie draiman said:

    excellent question and answer. first, i want to share what my rebbe (danny siegel – taught from the shulchan aruch (which doesn’t detract from what you taught above):

    The amount one should give to Tzedakah:

    If one can afford it, enough to respond to all of the needs of the poor people. But if one cannot afford that much, then one should give up to a fifth of one’s possessions ­which is doing the Mitzvah in an exceptional fashion ­one tenth is an average percentage, and less is considered “poor eyesight” [i.e., giving less than needed because you may not
    have recognized how great the needs are]….
    And one should not give away more than 20%,
    lest he or she ultimately becomes dependent on others. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 249:1

    b) a dedicated bank account is a terrific idea as well – many people do it and it is great to be able to keep writing checks from there every month.

    c) for some nice mitzvah projects in israel, see:

    teezkeh l’mitzvot

    arnie draiman

  2. Esther Tropper said:

    I just wanted to offer you some encouragement in fulfilling your commitment to give maaser(obligated charity). I live and work in Israel for an organization called Olam Hatorah(the Torah World)which is an online database of Jewish charities in Israel. I would like to invite you to visit the site and maybe you will find an organization that “speaks” to you.

    The URL is