1. If one didn’t give the minimum required amount of tzedakah not necessarily maaser (I read its 1/3 a silver shekel) for a few years is one required to backpay it? Is it time dependent per year? And the obligation ends when the new year begins?
2. Also are their any authorities who say tzedaka is not biblical?
- It is not clear if the 1/3 of a shekel requirement is an obligation that can be made up or not. Regardless, even if you can’t make it up, you can give that amount as a form of teshuva, which would be very helpful. By the way the amount of 1/3 a silver shekel is 256 perutahs. A peruta as of the current price of silver is worth about 2 cents, making 1/3 shekel about $5. This is an amount that you should be able to afford without that much difficulty, … it’s the price of two slices of pizza or a falafel! You should be able to make up even a number of year’s worth, without much difficulty.
- The obligation to give tzedakah has a few levels. There is the basic biblical obligation, (Devorim 15- 7 thru 11), that we have to give tzedakah to a poor person when he asks us for money. Then there is the obligation to give a third of a shekel on a yearly basis, even if we weren’t approached. This is learned from the verse in Nechemia 10-33, that there is a mitzva to give 1/3 of a shekel per year. There is however controversy among the poskim if this 1/3 of a shekel is biblical or rabbinic, but it is a definite obligation. There is discussion among the poskim if giving maaser ( a tenth of one’s earnings) is biblical, rabbinic or a very long standing custom, and most poskim say that it is a very long standing custom.