Hiring More Expensive Relatives

I need some minor repair work done on my roof. I’ve been shopping around for prices and can have it done at a reasonable cost. The issue is, I have a relative who works in the same area and is struggling financially. Hiring him would cost me at least 10% more, but on the other hand would give him some much-needed income. Am I obligated to hire him at the higher rate?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

In our obligation to give charity, our needy relatives have especially high priority. (See this response for the entire order of priority.) In addition, hiring a person to work for you is considered one of the highest forms of charity, since instead of giving him a handout, you allow him to earn what he needs, preserving his dignity. Thus, it would be proper (though not obligatory) to hire your relative for the work (assuming a comparable quality of workmanship and the like). The extra amount it costs you you would count as charity – towards the 10% tithe (ma’aser) we give of our income.

However, Jewish law sets a limit to this recommendation. We should hire a relative if he will charge up to 1/6 (16.667%) more than the going rate. Beyond that, we are not asked to put ourselves out so much. However, if you are willing to, you still may do so and count the difference towards charity.

(Source: Minchat Yitzchak III 129.)

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