Who Benefits More, the Giver or the Recipient?

“It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua:
The poor person [standing at the door] does more for the householder than the householder does for the poor person.”
Leviticus Rabba (Margoliot Edition) 34:8; Ruth Rabba 5:9

תני בשם רבי יהושע: יותר ממה שבעל הבית עושה עם העני, העני עושה עם בעל הבית

Because of the very nature of Tzedakah, there are those who say that the giver gets more out of the act of Tzedakah than the recipient. People who are engaged in Tikkun Olam clearly benefit in many ways. Just a few of the benefits: You feel good, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and you acquire a sense of greater meaning in your life.

This last glorious feeling was expressed nearly 2,000 years ago when Ben Azzai taught that ( שכר מצוה מצוה ) “The reward for a Mitzvah is the Mitzvah itself.”  (Pirkay Avot 4:2)

In and of themselves, Mitzvahs have the power to take a person into higher realms of meaning. Tzedakah most assuredly is one of the Mitzvahs that has that power…even if you have used your money
to do something as “unsublime” as paying the salary of a nurse’s aide who changes diapers on adults who are no longer capable of caring for themselves.

All that said, I would humbly take issue with the great Rabbi Yehoshua of ancient Israel. While it is true that the giver benefits from having done a Mitzvah and feels good about having done it, the food in a hungry person’s body far supercedes those benefits. So, too, having a new roof over one’s head after a hurricane has torn the old one apart.

In fact, I believe this is a general rule of Tikkun Olam: No matter what the benefits to the giver, the recipient’s benefit is always more immediate and much more “real”.

About the Author
Danny Siegel is a well-known author, lecturer, and poet who has spoken in more than 500 North American Jewish communities on Tzedakah and Jewish values, besides reading from his own poetry. He is the author of 29 1/2 books on such topics as Mitzvah heroism practical and personalized Tzedakah, and Talmudic quotes about living the Jewish life well. Siegel has been referred to as "The World's Greatest Expert on Microphilanthropy", "The Pied Piper of Tzedakah", "A Pioneer Of Tzedakah", and "The Most Famous Unknown Jewish Poet in America."
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