Two beautiful elements of Judaism, which my wife and I have lived even before our conversion process began, are Tzedakah and g’milut Chasadim. These are two principal Mitzvot and big elements of Ethical Monotheism that Judaism is well known for, that all Jews are expected to take part in. Tzedakah is the giving of charity, most Jews have a Tzedakah box in their home where on Shabbat and havdalah they put money inside of it to give to the needy or to a charity. Giving 10% or more of your income to charities and or the needy is considered the standard, but what my wife and I like to do is to give in our Tzedakah box on Shabbat and Havdalah, and every time we go to the bank getting out a $5, $10 or $20 extra (depending on how much we take out) and giving it to a homeless person we see. Our Tzedakah generally speaking equals around 15% in total each month, mainly because my wife and I were both homeless in our past and know the difficulties first hand, so we give extra to help those in that situation.
I recently read an essay on Tzedakah in A life of meaning; Embracing Reform Judaisms sacred path edited by Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan PhD that said, “Giving Tzedakah is not giving money to others, it’s loaning G-D money and he repays in this life and the next.” That comment stirred deeply in me, resonating within the very core of my soul. “to give,” in Hebrew is the word, “Natan,” which can be read forwards and backward, which can mean to give is to also receive. Tzedakah in the bible is mentioned in terms of food, wherein Leviticus 19:9-11 states;
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I the LORD am your God. You shall not steal; you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with one another.”
This has been interpreted by some of the foremost Jewish scholars such as Rashi as helping the poor through giving to them. The poor are entitled to our help, we are our brother’s/sister’s keepers, we must help them as a mitzvah, a very commandment from G-D. This is where the 10% tithing of Tzedakah comes in, roughly ten percent of the farmer’s field went to help the poor, while more is better, 10% is the average.
G’milut Chasadim is loving-kindness for others and is considered a fundamental Jewish teaching to care for others through social welfare and social justice. Acts of g’milut Chasadim include visiting the sick in hospitals, comforting mourners, hospitality, helping those in need of shelter, clothing, and food, and both Tzedakah and g’milut Chasadim lend toward Tikkun Olam, repairing the world.
Tzedakah and g’milut Chasadim are pivotal to Tikkun Olam and serve as a foundation in the ethical lifestyle of Judaism. Jews around the world are expected to live an ethical and moral life, and Tzedakah and g’milut Chasadim alongside works to repair the world are cornerstones of this.