Lo Techaneim and Supporting Non-Jews in Need


New York, NY

Is there a concern of lo techaneim (in the sense of giving free gifts to non-Jews) in supporting campaigns to help non-Jewish victims of terrible injustice (such as the Uyghars)?


Definitely not. I think first we have to make it clear that when it comes to the issur of giving praise or gifts (Avodah Zarah 20a), then as far as I am concerned, we need to totally embrace the position that this only applies to ovdei avodah zarah (Sefer HaChinukh 426, Rashba Teshuvah 1:8, Yabia Omer YD 10:41; Rav Kook (Mishpat Kohen 63). Even there, I would say, following the Me’iri (Avodah Zarah 20a, s.v. kevar), that it only applies to those nations/religions that do not have basic ethical norms. The goal here is to distance oneself from learning from them, and that would only begin to apply in cases of really antithetical religions or of fundamental lack of morality. (This is even recognizing that Tosafot Avodah Zarah 20a, s.v. amar, and the Shulchan Arukh YD 151:11 and Shakh YD 151:18 that rule that it applies to all non-Jews). Based on our fundamental approach to the larger world, positive attitude towards non-Jews, and affirmation that יפה אדם שנברא בצלם (אבות ג’:י”ד), we have a religious and moral obligation to embrace this approach.

It should also be noted that according to many poskim this application of lo techaneim is only Rabbinic. And there are a number of poskim who reject the pesak of לא תחנם that it applies to giving gifts, altogether (Tosafot Eiruvin 64b s.v. velamadnu, Tosafot Rabbeinu Elchanan, Avodah Zarah 20b).

As to giving tzedakah, that is permitted according to everyone based on the principle of דרכי שלום, which might mean being nice to them so they are nice to us, but I believe that it means that this is what creates the type of society in which we want to live. For the Rambam, it means that this is the path of the Torah, which is called shalom. See Mishnah Torah Melakhim 10:12,

רמב”ם הלכות מלכים פרק י
אפילו העכו”ם צוו חכמים לבקר חוליהם, ולקבור מתיהם עם מתי ישראל, ולפרנס ענייהם בכלל עניי ישראל, מפני דרכי שלום, הרי נאמר טוב ה’ לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו, ונאמר דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום.

For how this applies to giving tzedakah, and helping in a time of need, see the above Rambam. Earlier sources are Tosefta Gitin 3:13-14,

תוספתא מסכת גיטין (ליברמן) פרק ג
[13] עיר שיש בה ישראל וגוים הפרנסין גובין מישראל ומגוים מפני דרכי שלום מפרנסין עניי גוים עם עניי ישראל מפני דרכי שלום
[14] מספידין וקוברין מיתי גוים מפני דרכי שלום מנחמין אבילי גוים מפני דרכי שלום

Gitin 61a, Yerushalmi Demai 4:3 (which drops the phrase “with” the poor of the non-Jews); Yerushalmi Gitin 4:9, Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah 1:3.

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