�One who refuses to give tzedaka or who gives less than he should is coerced by the court and is given lashes until he gives what he was estimated to be able to. And they go down to his fields in his presence and levy the amount estimated.� (Maimonides, Hilchot Matnot Aniyim, 7:10)

There is no Hebrew word for �charity� and
tzedaka means nothing of the sort. Charity has a connotation to it, a very definite smell of condescendence. The person who gives charity is doing a favor to the pauper. It is not a thing he must do; it is not an obligation; it is a thing that he does out of the goodness of his heart - and the pauper prays that his luck finds him meeting the �good� man on a day that he had not quarreled with his wife or been cursed at by his employer�

Charity is a favor done by people who are in a good - a charitable - mood. There is no such concept in Judaism. One does not do
tzedaka or give tzedaka because one is in the mood to do so; because one feels charitable; because one is touched by the pauper�s plight. Tzedaka is not a favor; tzedaka is not a voluntary act; tzedaka is not impelled by the wellsprings of mercy. Tzedaka comes from the Hebrew word �tzedek� - justice, righteousness. It is just that a person gives to the poor. It is right that he do so. It is obligatory and mandatory because the money that he gives is not his to withhold.

When the giving to the poor is mere �charity,� a voluntary obligation that sprouts from noblesse oblige, the court cannot whip the one whose feelings of charity are frozen that particular morning. The sheriff cannot levy and execute judgment on a man�s field if he merely refuses to be kind. But when the property is not yours to do with as you wish; when title to it lies not in you but in someone else; when your possession and right to use the property are conditioned on an obligation to give it to the poor, then the refusal to obey the condition, the refusal to do what one legally must, brings forth the natural legal consequences - coercion and action by the state to compel the individual to fulfill his obligations.
�Unto the L-rd is the land and all that is in it.� He is the Creator and the Owner; in Him is the title vested and man is his tenant farmer and tenant property possessor. A hundred conditions accompany this right of possession. Food? Give to the Kohen (priest); give to the Levite; give from your field�s corner, from the sheaves that dropped, from that which you forgot - to the poor; make a blessing before eating that which you are allowed to eat, after exempting from your mouth all that which is forbidden. Money? Tzedaka - a minimum of ten percent.

There are a score of ideologies that discuss �property� and all come down - in the end - to the acceptance of private property. Whether it be the most laissez-faire Ayn Randists or the most communal communists, in the end, that which comes into the hand of the individual through either his own labor or through the blessing of the state is
his, to do with what he wants. Torah recognizes no such concept. There is no private property. There is only the property that belongs to its Creator and we are permitted to use it under the most exacting of circumstances.

Let those who steal, those who cheat in business, those who defraud and take that which is in the possession of someone else, those who refuse to hear the needy cry out and to give what is
due them - remember all this. Neither their property nor their very bodies are theirs. And in the end, those who take that which is not theirs and those who refuse to give that which is not theirs will see the Great Court come and take back all that belongs to the Judge.

By Rabbi Meir Kahane
October 14, 1977
The Jewish Press
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