It’s Jewish to give. The word tzedakah is derived from the Hebrew word tzedek, which means justice or righteousness. Of course, giving charity is a voluntary act that comes from the heart. However, tzedakah is a Biblical concept. We learn from the Shulchan Aruch that everyone, even a poor person who is sustained by tzedakah, is obligated to fulfil the basic mitzvah of tzedakah (Yoreh De’ah 251:4).
Giving has a spiritual impact on a person; we all know how good it feels to help someone else. We learn in Leviticus Rabbah that, “the blessing of tzedakah is greater for the person who gives than for the person who receives (34:10).
Why do you think our tradition obligates everyone – even poor people – to give tzedakah?
Does tzedakah have to be money? Are people who contribute their time and their talent giving tzedakah, too?
As we approach the New Year, it’s a great time to be thinking about these questions and how you can contribute – to your family, friends and community.
Here are 18 ways that you and your family could enhance the mitzvah/experience of giving tzedakah:
- Adopt an animal through the zoo. Take time to learn about the mitzvah of tzaar baalei hayim, the suffering of animals.
- At Chanukah time, take one night to pool the money you would have spent on gifts and choose a charity to which you will give those funds. Visit the charity together to see the impact of your money.
- Before writing a check, spend time thinking about and talking about the people your tzedakah help.
- Buy each of your children their own tzedakah box – and one for you and your significant other. Keep them together to watch the money collect.
- Collect cans that can be turned into the recycling plant for money. Once you have amassed a trash bag or two, bring them in. Take the money you receive and give it to tzedakah.
- Do a family tzedakah project, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting sick patients in a hospital or nursing home, or taking part in a joint fundraising initiative.
- Find somebody a job or give a job recommendation. The highest level of tzedakah, according to Maimonides, is to empower someone to help him/herself.
- Give tzedakah in honor of someone you love.
- Give tzedakah to someone traveling to Israel. Ask that person to give the money to a person or charity in the Holy Land.
- Have your child do a household chore to earn the money he/she will give to tzedakah.
- Just before you light Shabbat candles, give tzedakah. Get your kids involved by asking them each to give, too. Talk about how giving tzedakah – like the Shabbat candles – helps make the world a little brighter.
- Keep all of the solicitation mail you receive for a month in one place. At the end of the month, open the envelopes together with your children and let each one choose a charity to which to write a check.
- Make it a game to guess how much tzedakah you have collected in your family’s tzedakah boxes. Then count it. Whoever comes closest without going over chooses where the money goes.
- Right before Shabbat, empty any change left in your wallet or pockets. Put it in the tzedakah box.
- Sing about it! There are many tzedakah songs out there. Make it a family ritual to sing a tzedakah song before you give charity.
- Take on the mitzvah of giving 10 percent of your income annually toward tzedakah, or volunteer 10 percent of your time to a cause you believe in.
- When you go to the grocery store, buy a couple extra cans of food. Deliver them to the local food pantry.
- Whenever you find loose change on the ground, pick it up and put it in the pushka. Teach your children to do the same thing.
Need a pushka? Today, there are beautiful and creative tzedakah boxes that can enhance your home and model for your children the valuable lesson of helping perfect the world.
Here are some of the most exquisite (and fun!) boxes on the market (links below):
Black Rock Tzedakah Box
Handmade leather tzedakah box
Hand Painted Wooden Star of David Tzedakah Box
Jacobs Ladder Tzedakah Box
Jerusalem Map Tzedakah Box
KidKraft Tzedakah Box
Kids in School Ceramic Tzedakah Box
L’Dor v’ Dor Tzedakah Box
Marbled Blue Tzedakah Box
Little House Tzedakah Box
Neil Sedaka “Tzedakah” Box
Noah’s Ark Tzedakah Box
Olive Wood Tzedakah Box
Peace, Love, Faith Hamsa Tzedakah
Rare Garson Pakele Signed Tzedakah Box
Stylized Jewish Stars Mini Tzedakah Box
12 Tribes Tzedakah Box
Vintage Jewish Tzedakah Tin
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