Charity – What is It? Is the Giver Really Greater Than the Receiver?

The Rambam (1135-1104), Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, known as Maimonides – authority on Jewish law, states the following in his “Laws of Gifts to the Poor” Chapter 10, Law 1:

“We are obligated to be careful with the commandment of charity more so than with all the positive commandments. For charity is a sign of the righteous person – of the children of Abraham our father. As it says, ‘For I have (known) loved him because he commands his children… to do righteousness (Tzedakkah, charity.)’ And the throne of Israel will not be established, and the religion of truth will not stand except through Tzeddakah. As it says, ‘Establish yourself through Tzeddakah.’ And the Jewish people will not be redeemed except through Tzeddakah – as it says, ‘Zion will be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through Tzedakkah.'”

What is Charity – Tzeddakah?

Many think of themselves as helping others when they give of their hard earned money to those less fortunate than they are – or perhaps to those who may not work as hard as they do. Is charity truly only one-sided?! Is it possible that more than one benefits when charity is given?! Can giving actually be done with a smile? Is the receiver any less important because he receives?!

The (general) world perceives charity as something to be pitied. Those who walk around without are to be pitied, and those who have often drop a few coins into a charity box in the hope of walking off with a sticker to place on their shirts – showing all and sundry that they have recently donated something to this worthy cause.

Others look for higher goals – where stickers are not enough, and obtaining plaques on synagogues – with their names engraved upon them are the fashion. And then there are yet others who feel that having their names splashed across entire buildings is the hallmark of what charity is really all about. Is it all about caring for the other, or is there an ulterior motive involved? Do we so easily want to give when we don’t really know what’s in it for ourselves?! Do we feel as comfortable giving to a beggar dressed in rags as we do to a large organisation with a million dollar building?! Are we even prepared to give those who may “bother” us every so often – and more? Aren’t we in charge of our money and haven’t we earned and deserved every cent we have?! Perhaps if only those “beggars” would get a job, the world would be a far better place!

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