Giving Tzedakah

ב׳׳ה

 

 
 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

Strive for Justice

ב׳׳ה

 

 
 
Social action isn’t simply the intellectually correct response to a world that is frequently unjust.

Nor is it simply the currently-popular moral high-ground, the last remnant of religions demystified to appease followers after the Enlightenment.

And it most certainly ought not be something we do to boost our self-absorbed and frequently-insecure egos, whether by getting our names inscribed on a plaque for donors or by deluding ourselves with the notion that we are somehow “better than” those who face injustice.

Rather, we were (and continually are) commanded to Strive for Justice.

Everyone who has encountered The One has heard that command, for we cannot experience The One without being shaken from the deepest recesses of our souls by the deafening near-silence of The Unity.

The Unity from which we came.

The Unity toward which we move.

The Unity that inspired every religion.

The Unity that keeps whispering of our Oneness and urging us to acknowledge:

Together, we must Strive for Justice!
 
 
 
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About the featured photo

 
I took the picture a few months ago when I visited the Allen County Courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The courthouse has been restored and has amazing paintings and stained glass throughout the building and courtrooms. It’s a National Historic Landmark, and if you’re ever in that area, I recommend taking a look at it!
 
The photo, along with Deuteronomy 16:20, was the inspiration for the text, which I wrote.
shavua tov, jen