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Although it is often translated as “charity,” the word tzedakah comes from the Hebrew word “tzedek,” which means justice or righteousness. Jews are obligated to pursue social justice. Filling a tzedakah box – Jewish charity box – is one way to fulfil this commandment. Take part in helping perfect the world!
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Remember your first piggy bank? That feeling of excitement as you dropped in coins, and they slowly filled the jar.
A tzedakah box is similar to that... except the money you accumulate is given away to those less fortunate. An opportunity to give to others in a way that is truly rewarding.
How Tzedakah is Different from Charity
Not to confuse you, but… Tzedakah isn’t charity. Charity is voluntary giving, usually based on feelings of generosity. Tzedakah (Hebrew for “justice”) is giving because it’s the right thing to do, because it helps balance the gaps between those who have and those who are lacking. Giving tzedakah means correcting injustices that you come across.
The Talmud mentions that there are different levels of tzedakah. Maimonides divided these levels into eight different categories. Including in these categories are; giving without sincerity, giving anonymously, and - the highest level of all - helping someone become self-sufficient (through education, a loan, job opportunity, etc.).
Besides for it being a “nice thing to do,” giving Tzedakah is a mitzvah, a way to connect to and partner with G-d. One standard accepted amount is to give one-tenth of your earnings, as evident when Abraham gave the first “tithe,” a tenth of his wealth to Malkitzedek (Genesis 14:20). The first tzedakah box was created by the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) during the time the First Temple stood in Jerusalem, when repairs were urgently needed. People brought donations and dropped them in a small chest with a hole drilled into the door, which was placed by the altar near the entrance (Kings II 12:10).
Tzedakah is one of those mitzvahs where you really see the benefits of your actions. You'd be surprised at how far your spare change will go until you actually fill a jar. Imagine if every home had a few boxes set aside for the purpose of filling with coins and dollar bills to give away to those in need. Some families keep several: one in the kitchen, one in the dining room, one in each of their children’s rooms, and in the car.
Special Times to Give:
We’re encouraged to give extra tzedakah on birthdays, before Shabbat & holidays, during celebrations (ex: new baby, wedding, anniversary), and in memory of lost loved ones.
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