Mishegoss – Giving
Tzedakah – Charity or Justice
While Merriam-Webster may define tzedakah as “right behavior as traditionally manifested among Jews by acts of charity” a more accurate translation is “justice” or “righteousness.” Where charity may seem like kindness and not obligatory, tzedakah is an obligation to help others.
The JNF Pushke (Charity Box)
At the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901, Herzl removed his hat and asked the delegation to contribute to purchase land to re-establish a Jewish homeland. Within two weeks the blue box or JNF pushke was born. With the words “National Fund” stamped on the tin box, they were distributed to thousands. By World War ll, over a million boxes were distributed making valuable funds available. In 2014, JNF redesigned the box and Russell F. Robinson, CEO of JNF stated, “Today’s pushke represents the many projects in Israel that we and our partners are funding to build a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.” Get your complimentary Blue Box online at https://shop.jnf.org/products/bluebox
Why did your aunt give you $72 for your Bar Mitzvah, or you received $180 for your wedding? The answer is Chai. Chai is the Hebrew word for life, and it is written with 2 Hebrew letters, the Hei and the Yod. The Hei is the 10th letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the Yod is the 8th giving the word a numerical value of 18. Giving gifts in denominations of eighteen symbolically is giving the recipient the gift of “life” or good luck.
In 1178 Maimonides wrote the Mishneh Torah, his code of Jewish Law. Born in Spain, his family fled to Morrocco during the reign of Almohades. First landing in Israel and then to Egypt, Moses Ben Maimon (his full name) served as the physician to the Sultan, the leader of the Cairo’s Jewish community. There he wrote the great works – the Mishneh Torah and The Guide for the Perplexed. In the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides identified the eight levels of charity as listed below with the level of virtue rising from the rungs 1-8:
1. The lowest: Giving begrudgingly and making the recipient feel disgraced or embarrassed.
2. Giving cheerfully but giving too little.
3. Giving cheerfully and adequately but only after being asked.
4. Giving before being asked.
5. Giving when you do not know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient knows your identity.
6. Giving when you know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient does not know your identity.
7. Giving when neither the donor nor the recipient is aware of the other’s identity.
8. The Highest: Giving money, a loan, your time or whatever else it takes to enable an individual to be self-reliant.