Monday, November 07, 2005

Tzedakah: What is it and why should you care?

Tzedakah (Hebrew: צדקה) in Judaism, is the Hebrew term most commonly translated as "charity", though it is based on a root meaning "justice" (צדק). From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I find that to be fascinating... that the true significance of the word, "tzedakah," is justice. What is more "just" than elevating your fellow human being to the same level of living and dignity as your own self? To erase all barriers of need and suffering between persons, and whole peoples, is justice indeed. Justice is fairness. Justice is the natural state of harmony that occurs when one treats oneself and others with fairness and kindness. And this is tzedakah.

As a student of Rabbi Zvi Block, I learned that a Jew is commanded to do just three things: to love G-d, to love Torah, and to love the world. And, if a Jew finds that he/she can do only one of these three things, then he/she must love the world for that is the greatest commandment of all. G-d says so.

As Rabbi Block explained, in doing and living out that last commandment, one will eventually be fulfilling the other two. Makes sense to me!

One person's life is just one thread in a whole tapestry that makes up human existence. It is essential that we all learn to weave - to coexist - to love one another. That tapestry is not going to weave itself. It's up to us. What kind of world do we want to make out of our many threads?

And if one of those threads goes astray due to hunger or some other basic human need that is not being met, when someone's dignity is on the line, and you have the capacity for compassion that G-d wisely built into your soul, will you listen to it or will you pretend that you're not hearing the call? Will you not use the thread of your own human existence to pick up someone else's lost stitch to help get them back on track?

Maimonides wrote, "Even a poor person who lives entirely on tzedakah must also give tzedakah to another." (Mishnah Torah Chapter 7, Line 5) You see? We all matter. We all can do. We are interwoven.

What kind of human tapestry do you want to see woven and what are you willing to do to achieve it? It is not possible to create something beautiful based on that which is unjust. And so, you must love the world. G-d says so.

Please, read a little of what has been written on the subject of tzedakah...

Talmud: "Deeds of kindness are equal in
weight to all the commandments."


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