May 22, 2024

What Is Ma’aser Kesafim, and What Does It Mean to the Jewish Community?

Assortment of Colel Chabad Pushka Boxes

Many know that Judaism is a faith rich in giving traditions, but not everyone is familiar with the terms we use to promote those practices. Ma’aser Kesafim, meaning “tithing of money” in Hebrew, is a concept that has long been ingrained in Jewish culture. It’s the idea of giving 10% of your earnings to support causes and individuals in need. This article provides a closer look at this practice, its significance in the Jewish community, and examples of ways to engage in Ma’aser Kesafim today.

Ma’aser Kesafim Meaning Explained

Ma’aser Kesafim is a Hebrew term that translates to “tithing of money” or “giving a tenth.” It refers to the practice of setting aside a portion of one’s income for charitable purposes. This concept dates to the beginning of Jewish history but continues to be a core element of philanthropy and tzedakah today.

The principle behind Ma’aser Kesafim is based on the Jewish belief that everything we have is a gift from God and that it is our responsibility to share those gifts with others. In the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, there are several mentions of tithing as an act of righteousness and obedience to God.

The Origins and History of Ma’aser Kesafim

In ancient times, tithing was primarily done through agricultural produce. Farmers would give a tenth of their crops to the Levites, who served as religious leaders and teachers in the community. They would also set aside another tenth for themselves to celebrate and enjoy with their families in the presence of God. The remaining tithes were given to support widows in need, orphans, and strangers.

This is just one example of how the concept of giving tzedakah was made into an everyday part of Jewish life. Key Chabad figures have long emphasized the community-wide impacts of philanthropy and the positive effects it can have on the psychological well-being of both ourselves and others.

It’s part of the reason why there are so many giving traditions to be found throughout the Jewish calendar. For example, Israeli families will light their menorahs and place coins in a charity box, or Pushka, to give for Hanukkah. Purim is celebrated by giving gifts of food and supporting charities for the poor. And on Passover, it’s customary to invite guests into our homes for the seder meal and share our abundance with them.

Ma’aser Kesafim Today

As society has evolved and become more urbanized, the concept of Ma’aser Kesafim has shifted to include monetary tithing. Jewish non-profit organizations accept financial donations to support initiatives against hunger, programs for children’s education, and resources for orphans.

There are so many ways to give and Jewish charities to donate to that virtually everyone can make an impact from anywhere.

The Various Forms of Charitable Giving Under Ma’aser Kesafim

Monetary donations have the potential to make a massive impact through Jewish healthcare charity initiatives, community development projects, responses to global crises, and beyond. But they aren’t the only way you can show loving kindness through Ma’aser Kesafim. The Eight Degrees of Giving provide us with a long list of equally, if not more impactful forms of philanthropy.

For instance, volunteering with Jewish charities or non-profit organizations to help out with food distribution events, mentoring at-risk youth, and Bikkur Cholim (the mitzvah of visiting the sick) can make a profound difference in the lives of others. If you don’t have the time to sign up to volunteer, you can also donate to Israeli charities that accept gently used items like clothing and household goods.

Practice Ma’aser Kesafim with Colel Chabad

An iconic organization among historic Jewish charities, Colel Chabad is the oldest non-profit of its kind in Israel. We administer a number of programs designed to help communities fight the issues Israel is facing right now.

Pantry Packers

Colel Chabad’s Pantry Packers program is one of our most well-known initiatives, working to provide nutritious food to thousands of struggling families in Israel every year.

Big Brother/Big Sister

Big Brother/Big Sister matches volunteers with children in need of guidance and support. This initiative helps to provide positive role models for at-risk youth and has been proven to make a significant impact on their lives.

Dental Clinics

Far too many Jews in Israel do not have access to basic dental care. Colel Chabad’s Dental Clinics provide free or low-cost dental services for those in need, helping them maintain good oral health and overall well-being.

Soup Kitchens

Our soup kitchens provide hot meals to those who may not have access to regular, nutritious food. These communal dining experiences also serve as a place of connection and community for individuals who may be isolated or lonely.

Get Involved Today 

To fulfill this mission, we must look beyond just our own communities and extend our help to those in need everywhere. Colel Chabad is constantly looking for ways to expand its reach and ensure donations go to the most worthwhile of causes

By getting involved today, you can help us make a positive impact on the lives of at-risk youth, individuals struggling with poverty and hunger, and those in need of basic healthcare. Don’t wait – donate online now. 


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