We are told to give Tzedakah to the poor, but the Torah adds a peculiar directive. It says: VELO YERA LEVAVCHA BETITCHA LO, “…and your heart should not be grieved when you give him…”(Deut. 15,10) He is doing a Mitzvah; how can he be grieved?
Who is considered poor? A poor person in the days of the Talmud was one who had less than 200 Zuz. The Talmud Yerushalmi relates the following story. One of Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi’s students had a few coins less than that amount and was thus considered a poor person. Hence when the Rabbi would tithe he would give him the tithe designated to be given to the poor. The student’s colleagues were envious of him and they gave him as Tzedakah the few coins he lacked to complete the 200 Zuz so that he would not be eligible for the tithe.
When the Rabbi got wind of this he said that they performed an evil- minded Mitzvah. Although they gave Tzedakah it was for the wrong purpose. If a person gives charity grudgingly and out of envy he may be performing a Mitzvah but it is not as the Torah intended him to do. That is why the Torah says. “your heart should not be grieved when you give.”