Tzedakah is loosely translated as “charity,” but that is a misrepresentation of the concept.The Hebrew has its root in another word, tzedek/justice.In the Torah we are strongly enjoined, “Tzedek, tsedek tirdof/Justice, justice thou shalt pursue.” Rabbinical commentators have said that the repetition of the word justice is designed to underline the importance of the command. Tzedakah is not charity given out of caritas, in the Christian understanding of those words; it is given as an act of redress, as part of the process of seeking a just world. Mishpat tzedek means laws that are just or courts that are just, as opposed to law that favors one group or social class. Threshing floor. Pronounced: ah-doe-NYE, Origin: Hebrew, a name for God. Beyond Tzedakah: Understanding the Torah Expenditure. In Jewish thought, justice isn't merely about how things work, but how they ought to be. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. During years three and six of the seven-year sabbatical cycle, this tithe was to be put to use locally, set aside for Levites, strangers, widows and orphans. In the Torah’s system, those who prospered were reminded of their social obligations as part of the rhythm of daily commerce, the turn of the seasons, and the cycles of years. It is the only mitzvah that can be accomplished by asking G-d to grant us a request in return.. Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses. Traditional Jewish homes commonly have a box for collecting coins for the poor, and coins are routinely placed in the box. Why it's imperative to fight slavery even though the Torah tolerates it. The doctrine of pikuach nefesh [“saving a life”] applies here: he must not endanger his life to perform this mitzvah.) Scholars debate whether the “Hebrew slave” in Exodus 22 is an Israelite or not; in Deuteronomy 15 the slave is referred to as “your brother,” while in Leviticus 25 the Torah instructs that “your brother” not be enslaved but employed as a wage laborer. In the Mishnah Torah, one of the most important works in Judaism, Rambam organized the different levels of tzedakah (צדקה), or charity, into a list from the least to the most honorable. He alone truly fulfilled the Torah of Moses and gave Himself as a sacrificial offering upon the cross at Moriah to save the world from the wrath of God (2 Cor. From a Jewish perspective, it is as simple as that. Teshuvah and Tzedakah in the Torah Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Zt”l suggests that the Torah itself provides a source for the role of tzedakah in the teshuvah process and in moderating negative decrees. Even the poorest Jews, those who need help themselves, are expected to put aside something from what they receive in order to give tzedakah. Tzedakah is also seen as one of the three acts that gain forgiveness from sins. The Talmudic sages urged even the scholar to take on menial labor rather than become a burden to the community, and many of them were laborers themselves. Tzedakah is about giving & kindness. This mitzvah has the strength to forgive sins and repel all bad decrees. The same form, tzedek, is used to describe measures and weights that are honest and fair in commerce. Alternatively, they may volunteer at a school field trip for 540 minutes (9 hours). This is called Ma'aser, literally "one tenth" (hence the English word "tithe"). Rabbi Benjamin Hecht . It is often translated to “charity”, but is actually quite different. Interest could not be charged on loans of money or food. This practice parallels the sabbatical of the land, as well as the jubilee year, during which almost all land was returned to its original family owners if they had sold it (presumably to stave off poverty). Tzedakah (charity) is one of the pillars on which the world rests. This week we are going to be learning about Tzedakah and thinking about different types of charities and which ones you could support as part of your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Jews demonstrate the sanctity of biblical and rabbinic texts in several ways. From challah covers to yahrzeit candles, what they are used for, how they look and where you can find them. Even when the Torah recognizes the reality of their being rich and poor, it insists that each person be treated with dignity and justice. The focal provision of the law is the obligation of the owner to release the slave at the end of six years. A family member who is in difficult financial straits takes precedence over non-family. As a people whose mark is chesed (see T.B. This egalitarianism was concretized by the periodic cancellation of debts, the freeing of those who have sold themselves into servitude, and the restoration of land sold to pay off debts. Judaism, like many subsequent faiths, believes in tithing, that is, giving one-tenth of one’s income for tzedakah. Level: Intermediate. While equality was not preserved at all times, conditions would be reset periodically. Tzedakah is loosely translated as “charity,” but that is a misrepresentation of the concept. My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help. The Hebrew has its root in another word, tzedek/justice. Israel is expected to acknowledge God’s faithfulness by reserving a portion of that prosperity for the most vulnerable. The Torah specifically warns against using the approaching shemitah as an excuse not to lend money to a person in need. Tzedakah as a Tikkun on Tisha B’Av. The only difference between the two words is the Hebrew letter "hey", which represents the Divine name. It is forbidden to turn away a poor person empty-handed, but if one truly cannot give, a Jew is expected to at least offer words of comfort. (Maimonides enumerated a “ladder” of tzedakah with eight degrees of charity on it.) Everyone would depend for food on gleaning from the land. Judaism is also concerned with the conduct of those who receive tzedakah. However, it is more than just giving money. In ancient times, the Hebrew Torah was intended for a primarily agricultural economy and addressed the tzedakah in agrarian terms. The Torah requires farmers to leave the corners (pe’ah) of their fields unharvested, left to be picked by “the poor and the stranger.” Similarly, any grain that falls to the ground as it is picked (leket) was also to be left; so too any grapes that would fall from or be left on the vine (olalot). Even if the more radical sabbatical laws were never observed, the Torah’s scheme stands as a vivid depiction of an ideal economic system pervaded by a covenantal consciousness. Tzedakah, the Jewish term for helping the poor, is often translated as "charity." Receiving the Torah without being imbued with Tzedakah and Chesed is meaningless. The Pushke (Tzedakah Box) According to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), the word tzedakah comes from the word tzedek, which means righteous. For example, one may give $18 to a Torah school or $360 to a local Jewish organization. The word "charity" suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The Talmud also warns us against giving more than a fifth of one’s income, thereby incurring the danger of ending up destitute and in need of tzedakah. God, who is identified at the beginning of the Ten Commandments as the One “Who brought you out… from the house of slaves,” defines Israel as the people who liberate their own debt-slaves and sustain them in their freedom. By Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett In the Torah's detailed code of law in Exodus Running through many aspects of these laws is a fundamental egalitarianism. How does tzedakah differ from gemilut hasidim (acts of lovingkindness)? Everyone is required to give tzedakah according to her means. It is bigger than the sacrifices, Before we can talk too much about ways kids can give tzedakah, we have to clarify what tzedakah is. When grain and fruit were brought in from the harvest, various tithes and offerings were mandated. In the field. One cannot decide for oneself to what degree the increase in Torah and tzedakah will be practical and attainable. This shabbaton (sabbatical year) not only would allow the earth to regenerate itself, but would, to a degree, put the entire community on an equal footing. The form tzedakah occurs predominantly in later biblical compositions—mostly in Second Isaiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, and Proverbs—where it means justice or integrity. Comprised of the Mishnah and the Gemara, it contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis from different periods in Jewish history. Along these same lines, the Jewish community has a long tradition of establishing philanthropic organizations, ranging from burial societies to organizations like the Hebrew Free Loan Society, which gives interest-free loans to the needy, from funds to provide hospitality to wayfaring strangers to the traditional Passover funds to buy matzah and wine for poor Jews. The obligation towards tzedakah in the Tanach. Sometimes, it is known as the "Ladder of Tzedakah" because it goes from "least honorable" to "most honorable." In addition to these rules, which applied to every year’s harvest, every seventh year the entire Land of Israel was to be left fallow. This is some of the depth in the observation “More does the poor man do for the rich man, than the rich man does for the poor man” ( Midrash , … The Hebrew has its root in another word, tzedek/justice.In the Torah we are strongly enjoined, “Tzedek, tsedek tirdof/Justice, justice thou shalt pursue.”Rabbinical commentators have said that the repetition of the word justice is designed to underline the importance of the command. We use cookies to improve your experience on our site and bring you ads that might interest you. Therefore, the Torah sets out its programme of tzedakah in great detail in terms of an agrarian order. A child raises funds for impoverished families in Israel. How much should one give? A garment pledged against a loan was to be returned for the night. In the Torah there is no overarching term for this system, which rabbinic Judaism calls tzedakah. A work printed a few years ago in Yerushalayim by Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Zemmel, entitled “Ahavas Tzedakah,” provides us with a number of answers. Tzedakah in the Bible The Bible backed up its exhortations to assist the poor with laws and practices that gave poor people a claim to a share of society's wealth. Ask yourself the following would you rather questions questions: Would you rather... Buy a new jacket in a charity shop for £5 or a new jacket… Together, the two statements of the law of the Hebrew slave set up a parallel between God’s treatment of Israel and Israel’s treatment of those in the community who are poor. The widow, the orphan, the temporary sojourner, the landless, the poor—they command God’s special attention and concern, according to the Torah, just as the people as a whole did in Egypt. “God is beside him.” Rabbi Eleazar said, “The reward that is paid for giving charity is directly related to the kindness with which it is given.” Deuteronomony 15:10 cautions, “Your heart shall not be grieved when you give.”. The texts that lay out the laws of slavery are not entirely consistent. Only afterwards does the Torah command us to observe shmitat kesafim – a loan which is not paid back – and tzedakah, which one donates with the a … Many Jews give tzedakah in multiples of 18 because the Hebrew word “chai” (pronounced hai), meaning “life,” has a numerical value of 18. The Bible backed up its exhortations to assist the poor with laws and practices that gave poor people a claim to a share of society’s wealth. The greatest of Jewish leaders and prophets. 15:7-8. As noted above, the Torah recognizes slavery as a last resort—after a person has sold his family land holdings or his labor. A community cleans up a local cemetery. But that poor Jew’s tiny donation is as great as the large donation of the wealthiest. "Tzedakah and acts of kindness are the equivalent of all the mitzvot of the Torah" – Jerusalem Talmud, Pe'ah 1:1. Copyright © 2002-2020 My Jewish Learning. The latter is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity; tzedakah is an ethical obligation. The laws reflect a tension between dealing with immediate need—“for the poor shall never cease from the land”—and the ideal of “there shall no needy among you.” Both statements, in fact, appear in the same chapter, Deuteronomy 15. Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses. Judaism emphasizes that Tzedakah … God and Israel each participate in making the land productive and prosperous. Loans. Tzedakah … The purpose (and the condition) of what the Torah calls beracha (prosperity from God; literally “blessing”) is that beracha be shared widely. ... Sources from the Torah If a farmer or his workers missed a section of the field during harvesting, they could not go back and pick it (the rabbis later termed this obligation shikh’chah, “forgetting”). In the seventh year of service, slaves went free. There was the seventh year, when debts were cancelled. Pronounced: TALL-mud, Origin: Hebrew, the set of teachings and commentaries on the Torah that form the basis for Jewish law. Actually, the Talmud says that the latter is greater in three ways: charity can be performed only with one’s money, but acts of lovingkindness require one’s body, time, or money; charity is only for the poor, but one can perform gemilut hasidim for everyone; and charity can only be given to the living, but gemilut hasidim is for the living and the dead (as in the mitzvot associated with burial). Tags: second Isaiah, tzedakah Every week of the year has its own Torah portion (a reading from the first five books of the Bible) and its own haftarah (an accompanying reading from the books of the prophets). There are other ways of giving tzedakah besides the straight donation of money. My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help. In the rabbinic interpretation of the biblical rules, ten percent of each harvest was to be given to the Levites (ma’aser, the original tithe), and five percent to the priests (t’rumah). Sustaining them is in some sense the only way the community of Israel can repay God for the blessing of bounty. Tzedakah (Hebrew : צדקה), meaning charity, refers to the religious obligation of the Jewish pepole to perform charity and philanthropic acts.The word Tzedakah is based on the Hebrew word Tzedek which means righteousness or justice. Jewish homes commonly have a box for collecting coins for the debtor s. 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