Maximum Amount of Tzedakah
Is there a maximum amount of money that one is permitted to give away each year to tzedakah? The Gemara in Kesubos[i] says Chazal stipulated one may not spend more than a fifth of one’s profits on tzedakah each year. The reason is because if one he exceeds this, he may then need to take tzedakah himself. Therefore, they made a takanah not to give away more than a chomesh to tzedakah.
The Rema in Shulchan Aruch[ii] brings this Halacha to not give away more than a chomesh of his profits to tzedakah.
Exceptions to the Chomesh Cap
Are there any exceptions to this rule? The Gemara in Kesubos[iii] tells the story of Mar Ukva. When Mar Ukva passed away, he left half of his assets for tzedakah. The Gemara explains that only during a person’s lifetime is he restricted to giving a chomesh. This is because he may give away so much tzedakah that he may need to take tzedakah himself. However, when a person passes away, there is no longer that issue. Therefore, Mar Ukva was permitted to give away more than a chomesh when he passed away.
Rema[iv] brings this Gemara and states the halacha that one may bequeath in his will as much money as he likes to tzedakah. This implies there are no limitations at all[v].
However, Rabbi Akiva Eiger[vi] quotes the Shiltos DeRav Achai Gaon that the gift to tzedakah at the time of one’s passing is limited to a third of one’s assets. Apparently, the Rav Achai Gaon had a different girsah in the Gemara in Kesubos that said a third instead of a half.
Others[vii] state the halacha based on our girsah in the Gemara, which permits up to a half of one’s assets.
The Meiri[viii] writes that how much a person should give to tzedakah in his will depends on numerous factors. How much did he miss the opportunity to give to tzedakah during his lifetime? How many assets does he have and how many children does he have who will inherit those assets? The amount he should leave to tzedakah depends on these questions. The Meiri seems to say that one may give as much tzedakah as one wishes, and he is not limited to a third or a half of his assets.[ix]
[v]עיין בפרי מגדים או”ח סימן תרנו ס”ק ב במ”ז.
[vii]פרי מגדים או”ח סימן תרנו ס”ק ב במ”ז, וצוין ברעק”א.
[ix]בדרך אמונה פ”ז ממתנ”ע ס”ק כו משמע דנקט דגם לפי המאירי השיעור הוא מחצה או שליש. אמנם עיין בשט”מ בדף נ ע”א בשם תר”י דמותר לבזבז כמה שירצה רק שישאיר קצת ליורשיו, עיי”ש.ועיין ערוה”ש סימן רמט ס”א וחכמ”א כלל קמד סי”ב.