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Maaser for helping the sick – do they have to be destitute?


I would like to ask about the rules related to giving maaser to help people who are sick. Does the recipient necessarily have to be destitute, or is it enough of a miztva if it falls under the general category of bikuur cholim and helping sick people.
I am asking because a family member of mine has a chronic illness and has thousands of dollars of medical expenses every year (pharmacy, medical procedures, doctors, copays, missed work, etc). I would like to help her with my maaser money but she is worried about accepting it because she says she isn’t an “ani ve’evyon” and still has bread on her table – albeit after working several jobs to cover the costs even when it is physically difficult for her to do so.
I know that organizations like Chai Lifeline or Chessed 24/7 accept maaser money and don’t ask recipients for their income before giving them food, transportation, etc. So I was wondering if there was a specific halachic definition of “needy” that was required, or if it is OK for her to accept maaser money toward medical bills.

Thank you in advance.




According to what you a describing you may give your maaser to your relative.

A person does not have to be totally destitute in order to receive tzedakah money. If you relative’s financial situation put’s her in the position that she doesn’t have enough money for her regular monthly (not luxuries) plus medical expenses, then she may receive assistance from other, to help her out. Additionally, the person has to have a stable job that is providing her with enough steady income, or enough investment money, that the person can support themselves with that. Therefore, unless your relative has one of the above, see may accept your assistance.

As a side point, whenever we give money to a poor person, we have to be extremely careful, about their feelings, as not to embarrass them, by the fact that now they have to take money from others.



משנה פאה פ”ח מ”ח “מי שיש לו מאתיים זוז לא יטול לקט שכחה ופאה ומעשר עני'” וע”ש ברע”ב “טעם הדבר דקים להו לרבנן שאלו מספיקים לשנה אחת לכסות ולמזונות”. וכן ע’ בר”ש שם. ודין מאתים זוז והיינו פרנסת שנה בזמנינו הוא דעה ראשונה בטור ובשו”ע סי’ רנג ס”א וכדעה זו נראה מסתימת לשון האחרונים ה”ה יוסף אומץ פרק הצדקה, ומעשר שו”ת תורה לשמה סי’ שד, וע’ באגרות משה יו”ד ח”א סי’ קמד, ויו”ד ח”ד סי’ לז.


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