What does it mean to be a Tzedakah of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness
Rabbi Meir Baal Haness was a Tanna, who lived in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE and is considered one of the most influential figures in Jewish history. There is a longstanding custom in Judaism to give tzedakah in honor of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness as a way of seeking blessings or help in times of need. This custom is mentioned in various Jewish texts, including the Medrash Talpios and the writings of the Chida. It is also mentioned in the sefer Kesser Shem Tov, a collection of teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, a 18th-century rabbi and founder of Hasidic movement. This source is particularly important because it shows that the custom originated in the Middle East, spread to Europe, and was known to the Baal Shem Tov.
For many generations, the custom was to give tzedakah specifically to provide oil and candles to be lit in synagogues in honor of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. However, in later generations, the custom changed and the tzedakah began to be given exclusively to the needy in the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisroel). This change was made by the Mitteler Rebbe. Colel Chabad, founded by the Alter Rebbe (Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi), became associated with giving tzedakah for Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. Today, Colel Chabad is known for its charitable work in the Land of Israel, including providing food, clothing, and other assistance to those in need. This change in the custom of giving tzedakah in honor of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness became the new standard throughout all Jewish communities.