Friday, October 15, 2004

Local and Israeli Poor

R. Daniel Z. Feldman pointed out that a recent post contains an error. It claims that charity to the poor in Israel takes precedence over charity to local poor. That is actually an issue that is hotly debated.

Here is what he graciously sent me:

In the view of many major authorities, the aniyei irkha take precedence over the poor of Israel, when there is a question between the two. (See Bach 251, s.v. aniyei, who considers this "obvious", and Shach, 251:6. See also Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 251:1, who cites the Maharash Chiyun as viewing the Bach's "obvious" point as "possible"). The Chatam Sofer (Responsa Vol 6 [Likkutei Teshuvot], 27) explains this position consistent with that stated above, that aniyei irkha is premised on the significance granted to proximity, a factor not affected by the importance of the land of Israel. The Sefat Emet (Chiddushim to Yoreh Deah) observes that the Tur omits any reference to the prioritizing of the poor of Israel, perhaps assuming the concept was relevant only in the time of the Temple. He further states that the Shulchan Aruch, who does acknowledge the priority, was doing so only in reference to money that was going elsewhere in any event; aniyei irkha, though, would retain their priority.

However, some disagreed, positing that the priority of aniyei irkha was assuming residence in Israel, and since supporting those in Israel is simultaneously charity and a fulfillment of settling the land, this duality gives an edge to the poor of that land. (see P’at HaShulchan, Hilkhot Eretz Yisrael 2:22 in Beit Yisrael, 29). The Chida (Resp. Yosef Ometz, 19) agrees, emphasizing the dire conditions prevalent in the land of Israel in his day as tilting the equation. R. Zevulun Charlop has suggested another factor that may, in modern times divert emphasis away from aniyei irkha in favor of aniyei Eretz Yisrael. The increasing development of the "global village", has, through technological advances, both diluted the significance of those in immediate geographic proximity while enhancing the connection of faraway donors to those living in Israel. R. Shmuel Wosner (Resp. Shevet haLevi V,135:2) rules that aniyei irkha maintain their preference, in that the importance of aniyei irkha is enough to overcome even the combining of charity with other values. (See similarly R. Shraga Feivel Schnelbag, Resp. Shraga HaMeir IV, 64:3. See also R. Betzalel Stern, Resp. B'Tzel HaChokhmah IV, 162, who cites many opinions on both sides of the debate).

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