Tzedakah – Jewish Giving


The Jewish have a long history of charity and philanthropy. In Hebrew this is called Tzedakah. Translated most often as Jewish charity, the actual meaning is justice. What differentiates it from most people’s concept of charity is that for traditional Jews Tzedakah is an obligation. So , in the Jewish religion, it is not an act of generosity but seen as just or right. Generally, traditional Jews are meant to give a  “ma’aser kesafim,” or ten percent of their income to charity.

Charity is not just for the rich either. Tzedakah is a necessary part of Jewish living no matter what one earns. There are many forms of charity one can partake in, and there are degrees of donation. The highest level of Tzedakah comes when the recipient uses it to become self-sufficient, so loans and partnerships can be considered the highest level of Tzedakah. This idea of giving to those that can use the charity to help themselves has been compared to the Christian mantra of, “teaching a man to fish”. The lowest form of Tzedakah is charity out of pity.

Tzedakah is also one of the ways Jews can earn forgiveness, according to the sages. The other two ways Jews can earn forgiveness is praying and repenting for your sins.

There are a lot of ways one can do Tzedakah. One can provide money or shelter to the needy or invest in startup companies. Many Jewish people give to furthering education or healthcare. These institutions enable individuals to become self sufficient. Through education, students further their knowledge and with healthcare you’re helping people get recover from injury. It is actually less common for Jews to give to synagogues, it is not an obligation.