ְצדָקָה – THE DISTINCTION OF TZEDAKAHNovember 24, 2019 2023-04-05 19:12
ְצדָקָה – THE DISTINCTION OF TZEDAKAH
There are different kinds of giving that emerges from
the bible. Târumah can be considered a tzedakah, especially when it is in the context of taking care of your leaders — people whose duty does not allow them to make a profit for themselves. The word tzedakah (tsuh-DOCK-ah) is a Hebrew term that literally means “righteousness”. In the Jewish culture, tzedakah pertains to charitable giving or philanthropy.11 In Judaism, the weight of this word goes beyond charity. It refers to doing good to ensure that the needs of others are met. In the context of the târumah, the giver does not only give to fulfill traditions or duty. Instead, there is a spirit that has compassion for the well-being of the priests as servants of God. They are doing their part to serve their spiritual leaders. The tzedakah offering does not only include the târumah, but it refers to what we now know as a benevolence fund.
Tzedakah is a foundational spiritual practice. Tzedakah was a central obligation of Jewish life, whether the person is rich or poor. The practice of giving is not according to a person’s economic station or spiritual accomplishments. In the Jewish culture, life begins and ends in tzedakah, and so it must not be an issue or a struggle. When a child is born, the Jewish father pledges a certain amount of money for the distribution of the poor. At the funeral, the mourners contribute coins to the beggars who swarm the burial area.
The tzedakah is practiced in order to remind the individual that at every turn of one’s life, giving is present. Every celebration or holiday is usually accompanied by gifts. In Jewish culture, generosity is a way of life. During holidays, they would pass around a box where coins were dropped for the support of different charities. The well-off home has a series of boxes for different purposes. If something good or bad happens to the family, a coin is dropped in the box. The children are also trained in the habit of giving. The father would encourage this habit by having his son give the alms to the beggar, instead of handing it over directly. Jewish people grow up with the gesture of giving becoming almost as a reflex. How blessed is a person whose habit is to give instead of to take?
If we study the proper context of “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev.19:18), it is not a command to feel as loving toward another as you do toward yourself, but to love your neighbor as part of yourself. Love is an action. It is about taking care of others as you do yourself. Thus, giving tzedakah leads to the realization that there is no self or other — giving to the needy is like taking money from your right hand and placing it into your left.
Tzedakah is a practice in which anyone can engage. Unlike the word “charity,” which has its origins in the Latin caritas, “heart,” tzedakah comes from the Hebrew word tzedek, which means “justice.” Charity is done by someone whose heart is awakened (Ruach), something not everyone has experienced. Tzedakah, on the other hand, challenges you to be just. Even the person who has a scarcity-fearing egoic consciousness (Neshamah) can support this principle, since creating a system of just earning and use of finances protects you as well as others.
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