The Jewish New Year is quickly approaching us. Traditionally, it marks the birthday of the world. Rosh Hashana is
a time of forgiveness and we ask G-d to inscribe us into the Sefer Chayim, the Book of
Life. On the two days of Rosh Hashana, God's sovereignty over all people is reaffirmed. New
Year is a time for us to examine our actions and to repent for the misdeeds of the past
During these days of repentance, we are required to examine our actions and to make
resolutions of self-improvement. The nature of the holiday reminds Jews of the ability to
transform their misfortunes into blessings. One way of starting, is by the practice of
Tzedakah. The Hebrew word Tzedakah means "charity". What better way to start the New Year?
Yet another question I pose to you ...what does the word charity mean to you? Search for
other forms of usage in the Thesaurus and you will find the words; kindness, generosity,
compassion, tolerance, open-handed and bountifulness. All are true in relation to charity,
but one thing unlisted is 'self'. Charity starts with oneself.
Last month, I was fortunate enough to attend a wonder ful
work/study/hike program in Israel known as Livnot U'Lehibanot -'To Build and to be Built'.
The two-week session offered a variety of topics regarding Jewish life and ethics. From
"How to choose the perfect mate" to the "Meaning of Shabbat", the one that stood out the
most in my mind was the teaching of "Tzedakah". As a part of the lesson plan, we reviewed
some portions in the Bible, which highlight the act of giving Tzedakah. Below are the two
excerpts from the Bible, which mentions Tzedakah twice in its readings.
HIGH HOLY HOLIDAY TERMS
- Rosh Hashana: The "head of the year" (Jewish New Year)
- Selichot: Forgiveness; prayers for forgiveness we say during this season
- Machzor: The prayer book used for the High
- Shofar: The ram's horn, blown by Jews on Rosh Hashana to shake the soul and stir
awareness of the special nature of these holy days
- Kol Nidrei: The words literally mean "all of my vows." Prayer sung on Erev Yom Kippur
- Yom Kippur: The "Day of Atonement"
- Yizkor: "Remembrance." Memorial Service on Yom Kippur.
- Teshuvah: The Hebrew word for "repentance"
- Sefer Chayim: The Book of Life
- L'shana Tovah Tikateivu: "May you be written (in the Book of
Life) for a good year."
- Gamar Chatimah Tovah: "May you be sealed (in the Book of Life) for
(a) good (year)"
- Chag Sameach: Hebrew phrase meaning "happy holiday"
Source One Comes From Levitcus 25/35-37
"When your brother becomes impoverished and loses the abil ity to
support himself in the community, the community must come to his aid. Help him sur vive
whether he is a stranger or native Israelite. Do not take ad vanced interest or accrued
inter est from him. Fear your G-d and let your brother live alongside you. Do not make him
pay ad vanced interest for your money, and do not give him food for which he will have to
pay ac crued interest."
Source Two: Deuteronomy 15/7-8
"When you settle in the land that your Lord G-d is giving you and your brothers become destitute, do not harden your heart or
shut your hand against your poverty stricken brother. Open your hand generously, and extend
to him any credit he needs to take care of all his needs."
Our Way - Torah Chapter By E-mail
This week's Torah chapter speaks about many
Mitzvos. We will learn about one of them. The Mitzvah of giving Tzedakah - "charity.
The amount a person should give to Tzedakah depends on his income. An average person should give one tenth. A rich person
should give one fifth.
Which poor person comes first?
A person should first help his relatives, next his neighbors and then the poor of his city. If he has a choice between the
poor of one city and the poor of Israel, the poor of Israel come first.
How to give?
A person should give in a friendly way. Never embarrass the poor person. It is best if the
giver and poor person do not know each other.
The best charity is to give a person a job. Then he will not need charity and he will not be embarrassed.
The poor people who need our charity the most are Torah scholars. With their Torah
study they support the world and they bring great blessing to everybody.
Credit: OUR WAY 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004
In comparison, both address helping people in need. Whether it
is material allocation or an emotional support system, the individual/community benefits
from it. The portions force you to question the wide variety of people in need of
assistance, type of assistance, communal and individual responsibility, relationships
between recipient and giver and the goal of assistance.
This takes us to the different levels of charity. There are eight degrees of charity, each one higher than the
Tzedakah according to Maimonidies, Mishnah Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor. Chapter
The Highest Degree
Giving assistance to a someone who has fallen on hard times by
presenting a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with the person, or find ing
them work, thereby helping that person to become self supporting.
The Second Degree
Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other.
The Third Degree
When the giver knows the recipient but the recipient is unaware of the giver.
The Fourth Degree
When recipient knows the giver but the giver is unaware of the recipient.
The Fifth Degree
When the giver puts the charity into the hands of the poor without being
The Sixth Degree
When the giver puts the charity into the hands of the poor only
after being asked.
The Seventh Degree
When the giver gives less then he should but does so cheerfully.
The Eighth Degree
When the giver gives less then he should and does so begrudgingly.
As it is written above, Tzedakah can come in many forms. Charity starts with
oneself. As we embark on a New Year, we remember the special nature of these holy days and
try our best to live up to the promises we will make throughout the coming year. Chag