TSEDAKAH actually means RIGHTEOUS ACTION. In the Talmud, it is most often used to refer to the giving of assistance in the
form of alms or material gifts.
The rabbis of the Talmud extolled the virtue of giving tsedakah, in the simple sense of giving alms, as one of the greatest
of good deeds.
They taught that "together with prayer and atonement, tsedakah can avert an evil fate divinely decreed for the coming
year on Rosh Hashanah."
Tsedakah is enjoined throughout the Tanakh (Bible): "You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to the poor,
and to the needy of your land" (Deuteronomy 15: 11).
"He that has pity on the poor, lends to YHVH" (Psalm 19: 17).
And, the righteous man is one who is "father to the poor" (Job 29: 15).
Provision for those in want has at all times been regarded as a sacred duty. The very use of the Hebrew word TSEDAKAH,
derived from the word for JUSTICE, shows that the relief of poverty is a matter of duty - an assessment upon the rich for
the benefit of the poor - and NOT voluntary philanthropy. It is for this reason that the rendering of TSEDAKAH as charity
- which implies an act of pure and unrequited benevolence - is incorrect.
Tsedakah should represent at least one tenth of one's income, but should not exceed 20%, lest the giver be forced into
Tsedakah should be given secretly lest the recipient be put to shame. Always, ways should be found to not embarrass the
The highest form of tsedakah is when both the donor and the recipient are unknown to each other.
Customary ways to give tsedakah are by giving to a newly married couple; helping the poor have the necessary ritual items
and foods for Shabbat and Festivals; ransoming captives; and providing for the education, food, housing, hospital services,
old-age homes, and free burial of the needy among our midst.
Thus, there is a far cry between the Hebrew word TSEDAKAH (Tzaddi, Dalet, Qof, Heh), from the root TSADAK, "to be just
or righteous," with its implications of social justice, and its English translation "charity." In the case
of "charity" the recipient sees himself beholden to the donor, whose action is voluntary. TSEDAKAH, on the other
hand, has to be performed as a matter of obligation and the recipient is in no way indebted to the donor. The needy have a
right to TSEDAKAH, while those possessing means have a duty to give it. Indeed, even a poor person who recieves TSEDAKAH must
in turn give TSEDAKAH (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 7b).
Tithes, the tenth part of one's annual income, set aside for a specific, designated purpose of charity.
During the biblical period, detailed laws were promulgated concerning the tithing of agricultural produce and livestock.
All produce, fruits, and vegetables, are liable to being tithed. Untithed produce is called "TEVEL," and may not
be eaten except incidentally while it is still in the field.
In addition to the TRUMAH OFFERING (see under "Offerings"), the first tithe (MA'ASER RISHON), second tithe (MA'ASER
SHENI), and the tithe for the poor (MA'ASER ANI) must be seperated.
The Hebrew calendar is divided into seven-year cycles for the purpose of calculating the tithing.
The FIRST TITHE is to be seperated in each of the first six years; the SECOND TITHE in the first, second, fourth, and
fifth years; the POOR TITHE in the third and sixth years.
Produce of the seventh year (SHEMITTAH), produce of the consecrated fields (HEKHDESH), ownerless property (HEFKER), gleanings
(LEKET, and SHIKHCHAH) and the corners of the fields (PEAH) are left for the poor and are not required to be tithed.
The FIRST TITHE is given to the Levitical Priesthood (Numbers 18: 24), who were forbidden to own property themselves,
and who were also required to tithe a tenth to the Aaronic High Priesthood (Numbers 18: 26).
The SECOND TITHE (Leviticus 27: 30-31; Deuteronomy 14: 22-26) must be taken to Jerusalem and consumed there. This includes
the tithing of the flocks (animals), which were to be taken to the Temple to be slaughtered there. The second tithe could
be exchanged for money which would then be spent in Jerusalem.
The POOR TITHE (Deuteronomy 14: 28-29; 26: 12), or its cash equivalent, is to be distributed to the poor anywhere they
are to be found.
Produce that is untithed must be tithed by whoever comes into possession of it. One may not substitute tithes from one
type of produce for another, nor from bad produce for good produce, nor produce grown in one location for produce grown in
Twice during the seven-year cycle, in the fourth and seventh years, prior to Passover (Pesach), all tithing obligations
must be brought up to date, the tithes paid, and a relevant confession recited.
Tithing was obligatory ONLY in Eretz Yisrael, but the custom arose among some Jews in the Diaspora of allocating a tenth
of their income to charity, which practice many Jews still follow today.
According to the Torah, a number of sacred gifts (offerings) were said "to be lifted up" or TERUMAH. Being "lifted
up" implied that the gift was seperated out or set apart for God.
These special gifts are the breast and right thigh of the "peace offering," which was used for a sacred meal
by the Aaronic Priests and their families (Exodus 29: 27-28; Leviticus 7: 32-34), the cakes of the "thanksgiving offering"
(Leviticus 7: 12-14); the first yield of baked bread (CHALLAH; Numbers 15: 19-20); and the tithes from the common people and
from the Levite tithe (Numbers 18: 24-29).
The TERUMAH OFFERING could also be any gift that a person selected as a gift to the Temple from ones property; thus, the
materials for the building of the Tabernacle, the census silver, the dedicated spoils of the Midianite War, as well as any
other gift set apart as sanctified to the Temple, are all considered as terumah offerings. Primarily, however, terumah refers
to the tithe of the peace offering sacrifice which is given to the Aaronic Priests.
Gemilut Hasidim is ANY act of kindness, consideration, compassion, or benevolence.
Torah, worship, and gemilut hasidim are the three pillars upon which the world is built (Pirke Abot 1: 2), and gemilut
hasidim is considered an identifying trait of the Jewish people (Babylonian Talmud, Yebamot 79a); if one has compassion for
others, one is to be considered as though one is a Jew.
In three respects gemilut hasidim is superior to tsedakah (acts of charity): (1) tsedakak can only be given in money or
in kind; gemilut hasidim can be given in personal service also. (2) Tsedakah can be given only to the poor; gemilut hasidim
can be done for both the rich and the poor; (3) Tsedakah can be performed only for the living; gemilut hasidim can be performed
for both the living and the dead.
Gemilut hasidim is unlimited in the scope of its applications and is listed as among those actions that a person enjoys
the fruit (the satisfaction of helping others) of while he or she is alive and the fruit is still enjoyed in the "World
to Come" (Babylonian Talmud, Peah 1: 1). So, maybe your children and grandchildren will be viewed positively because
of the merits of your deeds.
Gemilut hesed is considered one of the attributes of God, who is described in the Daily Prayers as GOMEL HASEDIM TOVIM
(bestower of loving kindness).
Because lending money to enable a person to overcome poverty and become self-sufficient is considered gemilut hasidim
and is considered superior to giving alms as tsedakah, which can have the possibility of embarrassing the receiver, the term
gemilut hasidim was often applied to the loaning of money interest free to those in need of temporary financial assistance.
Gemilut Hesed Societies exist just for this purpose.
THE BLESSING WAY PATH
Whenever a person is in need of a blessing from Heaven; when they need a healing, a job, a sense of direction, a soul-mate,
or any other "favor" from "Beyond," it is important for that person to create for themselves a BLESSING
The Blessing Way Path is based upon the Jewish belief that "as you sow, so shall you reap." If you want to receive
a blessing, it is important to give blessings so as to open the channels for the flow of "SHEFA" (blessing, plenty,
abundance) in return.
The Prophet Malachi states in his book: "Bring all of the ma'aser tithes to the treasury (storehouse), so that there
may be food in My house; and put Me to the TEST on this - said YHVH Tzevaot; in no way will I not open for you the windows
of Heaven, and pour out for you blessings without limit" (Malachi 3: 10).
HERE IS A PROMISE THAT CAN BE PUT TO THE TEST! GOD INVITES YOU TO TEST THE BLESSED HOLY ONE! Try it and see for yourself
that it does indeed work! All you need to do is open the channels for the shefa to flow back to you.
CREATE your own Blessing Way Path by realizing that part of the monies that you are blessed with do not actually belong
to you, but that you are only the conduit for that money to get to its rightful owner.
We have a tradition that the Prophet Elijah travels throughout the world disguised as a disgusting beggar; and to every
person who gives him money, he gives a blessing of whatever that person really stands in need of.
When you give tzedakah (money given as charity or acts of justice) on behalf of a person who is ill or otherwise needing
help, or for blessings of economic or for peace in your home, the mystical tradition in Judaism says you are stimulating the
flow of shefa (divine outflowing), hesed (lovingkindness), and rachmanut (compassion) not only on this physical level of existence
but also on other levels as well.
Your loved one may or may not achieve a physical healing. The healing might occur on a soul level that is hard to describe,
or the healing might be that some aspect of suffering or alienation in this world or in another level of existence is being
repaired by your acts of kindness. You might not see the change that is taking place in your economic or domestic situation.
You can't control what happens when you stir up the flow of goodness with your words of prayer or your acts of tzedakah.
All you can do is stir things up and then let the forces of the universe do what they do. The EcoRebbe recommends the giving
of tzedakah in the form of CASH given to a total stranger in need. At least as much as needed to buy a small meal.
AN ARTICLE ON TSEDAKAH
"The Power of Tzedakah"
Tzedakah is as central to Judaism as the Shema itself. When
we say the
Shema, we include the phrase "b'chol levav'cha, uv'chol nafsh'cha uv'chol
meodecha," which our Siddur translates
as loving G-d "with all of your
heart, with all of your soul, and with all you have." The earliest
this phrase directly ties "meod" to material wealth.
Our ancestors considered material wealth a loan, so to speak,
from G-d, to
use while we are here. The Talmud says: "Give unto G-d what is G-d's, seeing
that you and what you have
are G-d's." In addition, the Talmud is clear that
Tzedakah is not just a nice thing to do, but a requirement for everyone:
the beggar who is maintained by charity must himself practice
Hashem created rich men and poor men alike
so that they can benefit equally
from one another. King Shlomo says, "G-d has made the one as well as the
7:14) By caring for the poor and needy, a person
elevates himself. When 3 angels, disguised as men, passed by Avraham's
Avraham had a great opportunity to do a kindness. At first, it says, "And
behold, three men were standing over
him." (Genesis 18:2) Since they were
angels, they were on a higher level and stood "over him." After Avraham
them into his home and took care of them, he reached great spiritual
heights. It says afterwards that "he stood over them"
(Yalkut Eliezer 18:8)
In the Alef Bet, the letters "gimmel" and "dalet" stand for "gemol dalim"
("be kind to the
needy") (Shabbos 104a). They represent the commandments
that are between man and his fellow man. These letters teach that
yourself to others and bringing them close to you is the foundation of human
"You shall love
your fellowman as yourself." (Vayikra 19:18) Rabbi Akiva
says that this is a major principle of the Torah. Fulfilling this
is the key to observing most of the commandments (Yer. Nedarim
9:4). It is very difficult to be alone and it interferes
with a person's
relationship with Hashem. In the Talmud, it says, "Either companionship or
death." (Taanis 23a)
of the commandments of Purim is to give mishloach manot in order to
express love and friendship. "Sending delicacies each
man to his fellow"
(Megilat Ester 9:22) Both the word "ish" ("man") and the word "le're'eihu"
("to his fellow") have
the numerical value of 311. A Jew should feel that he
and his friend are equal (R' Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld).
of this is probably not news to you.
When you give Tzedaka, a deeper connection is created between you and the
whether it is a person or a whole organization.