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If I gave tzedakah for ulterior motives, does it still count as a mitzvah?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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Question:

Say, for example, I gave money to charity so that people will be impressed by what I gave, instead of donating it because I wish to do good. If something good is done with motives of vanity then is it valid? I was not motivated by love for Hashem, so have I really done a Mitzvah, or not?

Answer:

Though it is best to do good for its own sake, it is important to do the right thing even if it (for now) is for the wrong reasons. This is especially true when it comes to charity. The Talmud says that if someone gives Tzedakah so his child should recover from illness - he is considered a Tzaddik.

Once a person approached the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, with the following problem: though he gave a lot of Tzedakah, he felt that he didn't "really mean it". Rabbi Shneur Zalman responded - but the poor person who received the money "really meant it!"

In other words, regardless of your intentions - the poor person benefits, and that is what really matters.


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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Tzedakah
"Tzedakah," commonly translated as charity, literally means righteousness, or the right thing to do. Giving to those in need is one of the most important of G-d's commandments.
Tzaddik
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzaddikim). A saint, or righteous person.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.