The Jewish tradition of Tzedakah began with Torah, and continues today as a testimony to our commitment to justice. Tzedakah means more than “giving to charity.” The commandment to give is a kind of ingenious cognitive tool, training us to interact and help as a community member. We give to causes that are worthy, to our synagogues, and to others less fortunate. Some of us give to Israel, some support environmental causes, some assist the homeless, others give where their heart directs them.
We bring the commitment of Tzedakah into our homes with a Tzedaka box, which, in holding our coins and cash, can also hold another’s hope for a better life. The Talmud teaches that Tzedaka is equal to all the commandments combined. Giving makes us holy. We give out of a sense of duty, not to be generous or magnanimous.
The practice of giving includes layers of felt experience, everything from a feeling that we are fulfilling an obligation, to deep, sincere empathy. Regardless of our origin and motivation, tzadakah remains a mitzvah, and translates to a contribution we make to a righteous world and to a humane life for all, Jews and non-Jews alike.
Giving tzedakkah is a traditional way to commemorate special occasions and life events. We contribute to charity in honor of weddings, new babies, bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, or any event in life and death that we want to mark with hope and tradition.
The tzedakah box can be a tangible symbol for themes of Jewish giving. Placing a Tzedakah box in different locations in our homes or places of work reminds us that we are obliged and capable of helping those less fortunate. Let our compassion for our world, and those in it, be a presence in our daily lives.
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The Etched Glass
by Steve Resnick