June 10, 2024

Jewish Philanthropy and the Meaning of Tzedakah

Women Helping Out at a Jewish Charity

Tzedakah, pronounced Zed-Ah-Kuh, is an important concept in Jewish philanthropy. It refers to the idea of giving charity with no expectation of reward or repayment. It is a commandment for every Jew that is seen as an expression of righteousness and justice.

The Jewish Tradition of Tzedakah Donation

The concept of Tzedakah has its roots in the Bible. The Hebrew words tzedek and tzdaka are both found throughout the Old Testament to refer to charity or donations given out of goodwill. In Judaism, Tzedakah is seen as a moral obligation and is an important part of Jewish life.

Tzedakah encompasses both voluntary and compulsory giving. Voluntary Tzedakah refers to acts of kindness such as charity donations, helping the needy, or visiting those who are sick or in need. Compulsory Tzedakah are obligations such as paying taxes, interest-free loans for other Jews in need, and setting aside funds each year to help the less fortunate.

The Talmud states that everyone should give at least 10% of their income away each year to charity. The emphasis being on the pure act of charity rather than giving specific amounts to charity organizations.

Understanding the True Meaning of Tzedakah and Jewish Philanthropy

At its core, Tzedakah is about being charitable, sometimes by putting coins into a Pushka – and actively participating in the community and helping others. It encourages Jews to think beyond their own self-interest and strive for a greater good.

The goal of Tzedakah is often described as “repairing the world” (Tikkun Olam). This reflects the Jewish belief that humans are responsible for repairing injustice and suffering in society through both charitable donations and personal acts of kindness. 

Through this approach to philanthropy, Jews strive to make the world a more just and compassionate place. Tzedakah donations should ideally be given to both Jewish charities for Israel and non-Jewish Israel charity organizations.

Tzedakah, Charity, and Chesed are Not the Same

Tzedakah is an important part of Jewish culture and life that encourages people to think beyond themselves and be generous with their resources. But it’s not alone; charity and chesed (kindness) are also important parts of the Jewish worldview.

Charity is donating money to causes or organizations that help people in need. This includes charities, non-profits, and other giving programs. 

Chesed includes any act of kindness regardless of whether it involves money – visiting a sick friend in the hospital, volunteering at a soup kitchen, offering free classes to children who cannot afford them, etc. While all three concepts are related, they are not the same and have different implications for Jewish life.

What Is the Highest Form of Tzedakah?

In Jewish philanthropy, Tzedakah is broken down into eight levels, with the highest being the act of giving through a loan or offer of employment. It centers on the idea of helping individuals establish means of supporting themselves so as to prevent them from ever needing to be dependent on others. 

It’s the greatest way to truly see the impact of donations because it helps people break the cycle of poverty and provide for their families ‌without needing to be repaid.

How Tzedakah Donation Works

Israel is home to several Tzedakah organizations that exist for the sole purpose of facilitating this time-old Jewish tradition. It’s not uncommon to see a Tzedakah box displayed prominently in businesses, schools and even private homes. 

People often put coins into such boxes as an act of charity and to honor Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. Jews can also get involved in philanthropic efforts by volunteering not just for the collection of Tzedakah donations, but also with Jewish charities in Israel that help widows, charities that fight hunger, charities that support children’s education, and other issue-specific Israeli charitable organizations.

Every Tzedakah Donation to Colel Chabad Makes a Difference

If you’re in search of Jewish organizations to donate to for Tzedakah, why not go with Israel’s  oldest continously operating Tzedakah network? Colel Chabad is one of the most well-known and respected charities for poor and needy individuals in the country. 

Our organization administers several charitable programs and initiatives that benefit the most vulnerable members of our society. Our charity provides nutrition security, medical care, childcare services and assistance to widows and orphans.

What Happens When You Donate to Jewish Charities Like Colel Chabad?

Choosing to donate to Israeli charities, regardless of how you give, is a meaningful first step in practicing the Jewish tradition of Tzedakah. 

Colel Chabad’s non-profit initiatives rely heavily on acts of Chabad donation and fundraising efforts. Your Tzedakah donation will help support Colel Chabad’s work in helping Israel in this time of desperate need.

Donate to the poor in Israel and make a difference today.


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בַּעֲבוּר שֶׁבְּלִי נֶדֶר אֶתֵּן צְדָקָה