Giving Tzedakah



 As Jews, we are taught to give Tzedakah, commonly translated “charity,” meaning money, before each Shabbat and holiday, as a way of expressing our gratitude for all that we have.   

This week, I was reading a book of Chassidic stories as told by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, tzt”l, Lamed Vav: a collection of the favorite stories, adapted and illustrated by Tzlotana Barbara Mildo (2005/5765).  In it, I ran across a story that inspired me, so I want to share it with all of you, with hope that it will touch your hearts too:

Let’s say we’re walking down the street, and a [person] comes up to us.  He’s dirty and ragged, maybe he even smells.  He says, “Oy, Oy — I’m so hungry. I’m … at the end. Could you give me a couple of dollars?”  Or maybe he doesn’t say anything, he just holds out his hand.

So what do we do? We take out our wallet, and — trying not to look at him — we give him some money.  Then, without a word, we walk away.  And we feel so good because we think we’ve just fulfilled the holy mitzvah of giving charity to the poor.

That’s all cute and sweet. But it’s not enough.  Because maybe, with the charity we have given him, the [man] can feed his body.  But have we given him anything to feed his soul?

There’s a teaching from the Holy R. Yitzhak Vorker: G-d didn’t take us to Mount Sinai and give us the Torah just to tell us to give a beggar some dollars or shekels.  Yes, it’s important to give him money.  But we have to do more than that.  We have to give him back his pride, his self-confidence.  We have to revive his soul.  

This Shabbat, and every day, may we remember to open not just our wallets, but also our hearts.
  Shabbat shalom, jen

One thought on “Giving Tzedakah

  1. Dear Jen,

    When really poor people are begging I would give no money but I would buy some food instead, because we are responsible about the consequences (karma/reactions). If the begger has the money, we do not know what he or she is buying – if for example they go to buy alcohol – we have to bear the fruit of it – means that we have enabled the begger to buy poison for the mind and body, and we are responsible of it. To become a conscious Co-worker of the divine plan we have to be very careful in all things and matters and to think twice before our thoughts are put into action. Another small example: lets say we are flying, sitting in an an aircraft. You are a vegetarian and the stewardess is coming to bring the food. she puts the food on your small table, but by mistake the vegetaran got the food with meat. Now, if he would give the food which was the food for his neigbhour, directly to the neigbhour than the vegetarian has to bear the consequences. The only way is then to give it back to the stewardess (from where the mistake started) – then you are free from effects hitting you. So there are hundreds of different examples occuring even in one – this is consciousness to be aware of the consequences and act accordingly.

    Thanks for sharing, dear friend 🙂

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