The tzedakah box – the joy of giving

The tzedakah box and the tradition of giving tzedakah are a basic part of Jewish living. There are many forms of righteous behavior, but giving charity to those in need is among the most important one. If you want to know more, this is the place for you – let’s learn all about the joy of giving!

The tzedakah box – a symbol of a highly important act

The tzedakah box is a means for a Jewish person to perform one of the most important acts of Judaism. According to the ancient sages, the commandment of giving charity is equally important to all other Jewish commandments. The High Holiday prayers state that God judges all who have sinned. But, teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah can reverse His decision.

There are no exemptions

The duty to give is considered so important in Judaism that even the recipient is obligated to give something back to others. The only stipulation is that one should not give to the point where he himself becomes needy.

The act is also linked to ancient times

According to some sources, giving tzedakah is considered a replacement for the animal sacrifice carried out in ancient times. This act was meant to express thanks to God and ask His forgiveness. Let’s move on and take a look at the personal aspect:

When you give, you gain something back as well…

The giving of charity can often be just as rewarding to the giver as to the receiver. The spiritual reward for giving can often just as great as the benefit the receiving party will gain. When a person gives to charity, he has the opportunity both to appreciate the good that he has and to share it with others – a person like that is lucky in my book…

Now what about the meaning of the word?

The word tzedakah comes from the Hebrew word tzedek, which means righteous. In the Bible, the word tzedakah refers to justice, kindness and ethical behavior. In Modern Hebrew, it refers to charity – giving to those in need.

This is consistent with the Jewish approach

Judaism considers charity to be an act of justice more then an act of good faith. According to tradition, people in need have a right to food, clothing and shelter – this right must be honored by others more fortunate. So you see, giving tzedakah is not voluntary, it’s considered an act of justice. According to some, there are also different levels of tzedakah – let’s see what they are!

The different levels of charity

The RAMBAM (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon), a 12th century Jewish scholar, wrote a code of Jewish law saying that not all acts of charity are equivalent – some are considered better then others. In the text below, you can see how he ranked them, from the most meritorious to the least meritorious:

  • Giving and enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
  • Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity
  • Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but he doesn’t know yours
  • Giving when you don’t know the recipient’s identity, but he knows yours
  • Giving before being asked
  • Giving after being asked
  • Giving less that you should, but giving it happily
  • Giving begrudgingly

There is also an accepted way to determine the recipient

When giving charity, you should consider the person or organization you plan to help out. According to Jewish tradition, there are some recipients more preferred than others. They are ranked below in order of priority, from the highest to the lowest:

  • Family and close relatives
  • Local Jewish community
  • Jewish community in Israel
  • Jewish communities worldwide
  • Local community in general
  • International assistance to needy people

The occasion on which we give also has an importance

In Judaism, there are occasions in which it’s considered more appropriate to give to others. Giving is considered a great way to celebrate a happy occasion, commemorate a deceased loved one or mark the Holy Days. It’s also traditional in Jewish families to give the children money each week, before the
Sabbath, to place in the tzedakah box by this teaching them the act of tzedakah.

Where can we find the tzedakah boxes?

Tzedakah boxes are often found in public places but also in many Jewish homes. Most synagogues have tzedakah boxes as well – this is to enable people who come to worship and celebrate to carry out an act of righteousness. Will you recognize it when you see it?

Let’s take a close look at the box

The tzedakah box can take almost any shape and form. There are round boxes, square boxes, long ones and flat ones. They can be made of all sorts of materials. For example, glass, ceramic, silver, pewter, wood and even papier maché. The boxes are usually decorated with Jewish motifs or general motifs such as nature. Once, I even saw a tzedakah box for sports lovers, it was designed like a basketball!

Spread the joy of giving

The tzedakah box makes a great gift. If it’s of high quality it can even last for ever and maybe be passed on as a family heirloom. Giving it as a gift is most appropriate on almost any occasion: Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, new babies, weddings, birthdays or even when visiting friends and family.

Click here and get on your way to see beautiful charity boxes…

A word of advice before making a donation

Before giving your money to charity, I recommend you inquire and make sure your money is used for its intended purpose. There are incidents when dishonest people collect donations under false pretences and use them for their personal benefit, taking advantage of others’ kindness – you should try to avoid getting conned!

If you have no money to give, you can still perform this obligation

If you don’t have means to donate money, you can contribute in other ways and perform the act of tzedakah. You can do good deeds, for example, donate you old clothes or spend time with sick or lonely people. Anything you can think of will work, as long as you’re giving with good intentions.

Try it – the warm vibes you will get are sure to brighten up your day!

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