Tzedakah (Charity, kinda)
Today we present the Jewish value of Tzedakah: The fightin’ value of charitable giving! Kinda!
Tzedakah (tzeh-DAH-kah) is generally translated as charity, but actually comes from the hebrew word for…
Thoughts on Tzedakah break down into two categories: Ideal and practical. We’ll start with the ideal:
Maimonides—a 12th century rabbi/doctor/philosopher/everything living in Egypt—created an eight-step “ladder” describing the best ways to give Tzedakah.
The lowest rung is reserved for those who give grudgingly:
Next is those who give less than they should but, but do so cheerfully:
Levels 3 and 4 are those who give directly to the poor. Level 3 is for people have have to be asked, Level 4 is those who do so without prompting:
Rungs 5-7 deal with various levels of anonymity in giving, with Level 7 reaching the point that both donor and recipient are unknown to each other.
The highest level on the ladder is the preverbal teaching a man fish:
This is all fine and good, but like many other religions, Tzedakah also has a pragmatic mandatory giving component. I’m not an expert, but Iknow Christianity has a concept of tithing and one of the five pillars of Islam is Zakat, also mandatory alms-giving.
In the Torah (first five books of the Bible), God mandates that farmers not harvest the corners of their fields to leave that food for the poor.
Modern Jewish scholar Dennis Prager once said ”Judaism would love you to give 10 percent of your income each year from your heart. It suspects, however, that in a large majority of cases, were we to wait for people's hearts to prompt them to give a tenth of their money away, we would be waiting a very long time ...”
“... Ergo, Judaism says, Give ten percent-and if your heart catches up, terrific. In the meantime, good has been done."
So when you're counting your dough, make sure you set some aside for those less fortunate.
About the Jew
The Jew is an Uber driving, Bar Mitzvah DJing, yoga teaching ex-journalist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He now attends rabbi school in New York