Everyone is required to give tzedakah according to her means. In the seventh year of service, slaves went free. Therefore, the Torah sets out its programme of tzedakah in great detail in terms of an agrarian order. Hundreds of years later, after the Temple was destroyed and the annual tithe levied upon each Jew for the support of the priests and Levites was suspended, the Talmud ordered that Jews were to give at least 10 percent of their annual net earnings to tzedaka (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, "Laws Concerning Gifts for the Poor," 7:5). The Torah does not talk about giving charity as such, instead it offers the following instruction in relation to the harvest: Leviticus 23: 22 Tzedakah can be fulfilled by giving money to the poor, to health-care institutions, to synagogues or Jewish educational institutions, or by giving assistance or doing good for others. The Torah and Talmud provide Jews with guidelines on the how, what and when of giving to the poor. A child raises funds for impoverished families in Israel. We use cookies to improve your experience on our site and bring you ads that might interest you. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. 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). This concept of "charity" differs from the modern Western understanding of "charity." 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). 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. The Torah specifically warns against using the approaching shemitah as an excuse not to lend money to a person in need. It is bigger than the sacrifices, A garment pledged against a loan was to be returned for the night. Tzedakah is a good deed that is made in partnership with God. 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. According to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), the word tzedakah comes from the word tzedek, which means righteous. A family member who is in difficult financial straits takes precedence over non-family. One cannot decide for oneself to what degree the increase in Torah and tzedakah will be practical and attainable. “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.”. Among the Torah’s most radical innovations is the shemitah, the cancellation of all debts every seven years. 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. While equality was not preserved at all times, conditions would be reset periodically. Our duty to society, both as Jews and as human beings, and our obligation to those less fortunate are of great significance to us. No one knows to what extent the laws were ever practiced in biblical Israel. Tzedakah is so important an action within Judaism that along with prayer and repentance, it gains forgiveness from God for sins and transgressions. Everyone would depend for food on gleaning from the land. Many Jews give tzedakah in multiples of 18 because the Hebrew word “chai” (pronounced hai), meaning “life,” has a numerical value of 18. (If making a donation would impair the impecunious Jew’s ability to sustain himself, he is absolved from giving. All Rights Reserved. especially in moments when a person’s poverty is most evident. Rabbi Benjamin Hecht . There was the seventh year, when debts were cancelled. ... Sources from the Torah Even so, we are enjoined explicitly to give tzedakah, particularly just before the Sabbath and festivals. Tzedakah [ts(e)daˈka] (Hebrew: צדקה ‎) is a Hebrew word meaning "righteousness", but commonly used to signify charity. 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). Receiving the Torah without being imbued with Tzedakah and Chesed is meaningless. From a Jewish perspective, it is as simple as that. Tzedakah is loosely translated as “charity,” but that is a misrepresentation of the concept. For example, one may give $18 to a Torah school or $360 to a local Jewish organization. From challah covers to yahrzeit candles, what they are used for, how they look and where you can find them. The same form, tzedek, is used to describe measures and weights that are honest and fair in commerce. The only difference between the two words is the Hebrew letter "hey", which represents the Divine name. The Torah claims "there will never cease to be needy ones in your land" (Deuteronomy 15:11) (United Jewish Communities 2004). 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. Of course the greatest act of tzedakah was demonstrated by the gracious gift of Yeshua as our sacrifice for sin. The book Taharat Hakodesh quotes 29 characteristics from this mitzvah:. 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. Jews demonstrate the sanctity of biblical and rabbinic texts in several ways. How much should one give? In ancient times, the Hebrew Torah was intended for a primarily agricultural economy and addressed the tzedakah in agrarian terms. A community cleans up a local cemetery. As a people whose mark is chesed (see T.B. The focal provision of the law is the obligation of the owner to release the slave at the end of six years. Tips for picking the right present for this Jewish rite of passage. In all cases, the law requires that the servant be freed eventually–after six years (Exodus and Deuteronomy), at the jubilee (Leviticus), or when a family “redeemer” can pay off the slave’s debt. Mishpat tzedek means laws that are just or courts that are just, as opposed to law that favors one group or social class. 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. A Happy and Healthy Purim to all!-5-Rabbi Yosef Goldberg – Bayswater, NY In the Torah there is no overarching term for this system, which rabbinic Judaism calls tzedakah. 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. For this reason the guidance of the Rav/Mashpia will be of invaluable help. Excerpted from Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals, published by Pocket Books. Charity is a fundamental part of the Torah way of life: Traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity. “Do not humiliate a beggar,” the Talmud warns us. The word "tzedakah" is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. Only in Daniel 4:24 is the word tzidka (the same consonants as tzedakah) used to refer particularly to concern for the poor. Most of these tithes went to support the priests and Levites, who owned no land of their own. 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”). 1. 5:19; John 3:36). Tzedakah involves emulating G-d’s altruistic acts of goodness, namely the bestowing of oneself -and one’s energies and assets – onto others. The Torah recognizes loans not for commercial development but to support those in need. This is colloquially called tzedakah (charity), which Maimonides lists charity as one of the 613 mitzvahs. Why it's imperative to fight slavery even though the Torah tolerates it. Give tzedakah to the needy, Torah schools, Jewish institutions, and humanitarian causes. Sign up for a night of Jewish entertainment on Dec. 24, Why Tisha B’Av is Not Really About Mourning. 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. Pronounced: ah-doe-NYE, Origin: Hebrew, a name for God. Interest could not be charged on loans of money or food. Alternatively, they may volunteer at a school field trip for 540 minutes (9 hours). The purpose (and the condition) of what the Torah calls beracha (prosperity from God; literally “blessing”) is that beracha be shared widely. Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses. Indentured servitude. Threshing floor. All Rights Reserved. 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 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. However, the Hebrew root tzedek is more closely translated as "justice" or "fairness." Sustaining them is in some sense the only way the community of Israel can repay God for the blessing of bounty. The root tz-d-k in the Hebrew Bible generally refers to the quality of justice. Parsha Summary Haftorah Summary Haftorah Commentary Legacy Drasha – R. Mordechai Kamenetzky Parsha Insights – R. Yisroel Ciner Kol HaKollel Dvar Torah Lifeline Edutainment Weekly The Living Law Rabbi Wein Table Talk Thinking Outside the Box Parsha Insights This is called Ma'aser, literally "one tenth" (hence the English word "tithe"). Copyright © 2002-2020 My Jewish Learning. 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. There was the Jubilee in which ancestral lands returned to their original owners. 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). A creditor was forbidden from seizing as collateral tools necessary for the debtor’s livelihood. 11) We are obligated to provide relief to a Torah scholar in a fashion compatible with the … A class decorates pillowcases for children in nearby hospitals. In its details, biblical law concerning assistance for the poor deals primarily with four situations: the harvest in the field, the threshing floor, loans, and indentured servitude. "Tzedakah and acts of kindness are the equivalent of all the mitzvot of the Torah" – Jerusalem Talmud, Pe'ah 1:1. Running through many aspects of these laws is a fundamental egalitarianism. Traditional Jewish homes commonly have a box for collecting coins for the poor, and coins are routinely placed in the box. In that sense everyone would live as the most vulnerable or marginal would in a typical year—although the more fortunate might have stored crops from the previous year. Lending is strictly regulated in the Torah. Yevamot 79a), our commitment to others is a distinction we carry with pride. Israel is expected to acknowledge God’s faithfulness by reserving a portion of that prosperity for the most vulnerable. My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help. In Jewish thought, justice isn't merely about how things work, but how they ought to be. 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… The Embodied Torah of our Connection with the Earth (8) The Embodied Torah of Peace (4) The Embodied Torah of Wonder (3) Theology – The Thought that Drives our Practice (60) Tzedakah/Gemilut Hasadim – The Embodied Torah of Giving (9) Tzedek – The embodied Torah of Justice (5) Archives It is often translated to “charity”, but is actually quite different. 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. Even when the Torah recognizes the reality of their being rich and poor, it insists that each person be treated with dignity and justice. As noted above, the Torah recognizes slavery as a last resort—after a person has sold his family land holdings or his labor. The Pushke (Tzedakah Box) 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. Leviticus expresses it in the statement that all Israelites are “slaves” to God. In the field. Indeed, the Torah’s framework of assistance for the poor is built almost entirely on a series of imitations of God, in accord with the command “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Life on the land God has given is a covenantal partnership between Israel and God. By Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett In the Torah's detailed code of law in Exodus Judaism is also concerned with the conduct of those who receive tzedakah. The Torah tells us, “You shall surely open your hand to the poor and the destitute of your land.” Elsewhere it is said that Israel will be redeemed by its acts 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. Tzedakah, the Jewish term for helping the poor, is often translated as "charity." Before we can talk too much about ways kids can give tzedakah, we have to clarify what tzedakah is. (Maimonides enumerated a “ladder” of tzedakah with eight degrees of charity on it.) There are other ways of giving tzedakah besides the straight donation of money. Supporting one’s children after they have reached the age at which they are deemed capable of self-support, supporting one’s parents, donating money to an individual who wishes to study Torah—all these are called meritorious. Normally, a second tithe was reserved to be brought to Jerusalem and eaten during a pilgrimage celebration. Tzedakah is also seen as one of the three acts that gain forgiveness from sins. Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses. However, it is more than just giving money. It accelerates the Redemption, 2. 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. Through each act of love, they help build a brighter tomorrow. Tzedakah: Charity. A work printed a few years ago in Yerushalayim by Rabbi Avrohom Moshe Zemmel, entitled “Ahavas Tzedakah,” provides us with a number of answers. Sign up for a night of Jewish entertainment on Dec. 24, Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals, How to Treat Jewish Holy Books (Sifrei Kodesh). In Deuteronomy, the law is elaborated and revised–the owner must “pile him up” with food and flocks as he goes free. The obligation towards tzedakah in the Tanach. Tzedakah is loosely translated as “charity,” but that is a misrepresentation of the concept. 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. In order to understand his comments, a brief introduction is necessary. The texts that lay out the laws of slavery are not entirely consistent. Judaism emphasizes that Tzedakah … This week the Torah portion is Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20) and the haftarah is Isaiah 61:10-63:9). But that poor Jew’s tiny donation is as great as the large donation of the wealthiest. 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. Beyond Tzedakah: Understanding the Torah Expenditure. Tzedakah means to give to charity to help the world and those who don't have as much as we do. To view the entire Shulchan Aruch Yore Deah on the Laws of Tzedakah translated by Rabbi Yosef Goldberg click here.. Siman 253 : For Whom is it Proper to Receive Tzedakah. God and Israel each participate in making the land productive and prosperous. We use cookies to improve your experience on our site and bring you ads that might interest you. The Rabbis regulated the giving and receiving of tzedakah even while recognizing that how one gives may be as important as how much one gives. The Code of Jewish Law provides some guidelines to determine where to give first. 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. The greatest of Jewish leaders and prophets. If conducted properly tzedakah requires that the donor share his or her compassion and empathy along with the money. Tzedakah is about giving & kindness. 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. The Torah says to give 10 percent of our earnings to people in need, based on Leviticus 25:35 and Deut. Every town in which there is a Jewish community is required halakhically [by Jewish law] to have a charity fund that can disburse monies that cover a week’s needs of a poor family. A creditor was forbidden to enter a debtor’s home to take a pledge. 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. The form tzedakah occurs predominantly in later biblical compositions—mostly in Second Isaiah, Ezekiel, Psalms, and Proverbs—where it means justice or integrity. Tzedakah … How does tzedakah differ from gemilut hasidim (acts of lovingkindness)? 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). The basic mandate was to lend someone dai machsoro, “sufficient for his lack.” The purpose of the loan was to help restore someone to his former situation, not simply to prevent starvation. It is the only mitzvah that can be accomplished by asking G-d to grant us a request in return.. This mitzvah has the strength to forgive sins and repel all bad decrees. Sometimes, it is known as the "Ladder of Tzedakah" because it goes from "least honorable" to "most honorable." 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. Even the poorest Jews, those who need help themselves, are expected to put aside something from what they receive in order to give tzedakah. Pronounced: TALL-mud, Origin: Hebrew, the set of teachings and commentaries on the Torah that form the basis for Jewish law. Tzedakah (charity) is one of the pillars on which the world rests. "Greater is tzedakah than all the sacrifices" – Talmud, Sukkah 49b. The latter is typically understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity; tzedakah is an ethical obligation. 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. Since Purim is a day of new acceptance of the Torah, then Matanos LaEvyonim is intrinsic to this very joyous holiday. Level: Intermediate. Pronounced: tzuh-DAH-kuh, Origin: Hebrew, from the Hebrew root for justice, charitable giving. The Hebrew has its root in another word, tzedek/justice. When grain and fruit were brought in from the harvest, various tithes and offerings were mandated. 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 … There are legions of stories about the prophet Elijah who comes to us in the guise of a homeless beggar on the street. 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 , … 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. Giving tzedakah is the right thing to do, the righteous thing to do. In the Torah’s detailed code of law in Exodus, the very first law describes the case of the “Hebrew slave”—a man who has to sell himself into indentured servitude because of poverty or debt. 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. Tzedakah as a Tikkun on Tisha B’Av. 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. Posted on July 29, 2009. Judaism, like many subsequent faiths, believes in tithing, that is, giving one-tenth of one’s income for tzedakah. My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help. The word "charity" suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. Copyright © 2002-2020 My Jewish Learning. 15:7-8. From a Jewish perspective, it is as simple as that. Next, the Torah moves on to the mitzvah of ma’aser ani – every three years, one must give ten percent of one’s money. Relations with the Hungry, Tzedakah & Welfare Reform. They are enjoined not to become dependent on others. Comprised of the Mishnah and the Gemara, it contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis from different periods in Jewish history. Loans. 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. The doctrine of pikuach nefesh [“saving a life”] applies here: he must not endanger his life to perform this mitzvah.) And in the Book of Proverbs we are told, “The doing of righteousness and justice is preferable to Adonai than the sacrificial offering.”, How we give tzedakah is as important was what we give. 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