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Tzedakah: Is it just about giving?

Our students engaged in a brief conversation about tzedekah, the Jewish Value of giving after viewing a video to set the stage (Click here to watch). As you may recall, tzedek (צֶדֶק), which can be defined as justice or righteousness, is the overarching theme for our year. Tzedakah (צְדָקָה) comes from this root. So, when we think of the action of “giving tzedakah,” we are in essence bringing about justice and/or behaving righteously. After viewing the clip, we discussed the idea that our intention when we give is much more important than the amount we give.

In a similar teaching to what the video offers, we learn:

Pirkei Avot 5:13

There are four kinds [of] givers of tzedakah (charity). [One who] wishes to give, but does not [wish for] others to give — he has an evil eye with respect to others; [one who] wishes for others to give, and he [himself] does not give — he has an evil eye with respect to himself; [one who] gives and [wishes that] others will give — [that’s a] chasid (righteous person); [one who] does not give and does not [wish that] others will give — [that’s a] rasha (wicked person).

משנה אבות ה׳:י״ג

(יג) אַרְבַּע מִדּוֹת בְּנוֹתְנֵי צְדְקָה. הָרוֹצֶה שֶׁיִּתֵּן וְלֹא יִתְּנוּ אֲחֵרִים, עֵינוֹ רָעָה בְּשֶׁל אֲחֵרִים. יִתְּנוּ אֲחֵרִים וְהוּא לֹא יִתֵּן, עֵינוֹ רָעָה בְשֶׁלּוֹ. יִתֵּן וְיִתְּנוּ אֲחֵרִים – חָסִיד. לֹא יִתֵּן וְלֹא יִתְּנוּ אֲחֵרִים – רָשָׁע:

Questions to consider:

  • What does each of these “givers” of tzedakah teach us about Judaism’s approach to giving?

  • How, if at all, does this text shift how you previously thought about giving tzedakah?

Throughout the year, your child(ren) will be putting their learning into action! Each week, we will be collecting tzedekah, (remember, the amount each child gives is not important). We also want our students to feel empowered to decide where their money will go. Toward this end, on the Monday before Rosh Hodesh, the start of the Jewish month, each class will vote on the charity towards which they wish to donate. Perhaps discuss what charities are important to your family and create a list for your child(ren) to share with their classmates and teachers.

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