July 24, 2024
B”H
B”H

Generosity and Charity as Taught By the Torah

Volunteer Carrying Charity Boxes

Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual – it comes with something better. The Torah is every Jew’s unequivocal guide to fulfillment, peace at home, and a saved soul. Its teachings on generosity are similarly the basis for philanthropic initiatives both in local community synagogues and across the Jewish diaspora. This article spotlights the Torah’s influence over giving traditions to explain why and how our community’s nonprofits for the poor work the way they do. 

Jewish Values Start With the Torah

While every Jew knows what the Torah is, not everyone has a full picture of where it comes from or how the content inside is structured. Knowing this can deepen one’s appreciation for good and understanding of Jewish values, and work to enhance one’s spiritual connection to beautiful rituals. The Torah, also known as the Five Books of Moses, contains the story of creation, the history of the Jewish people, and the commandments given by G-d.  It’s divided into five books: 

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy

Each book has its own focus and themes, but together they form a cohesive narrative of the Jewish people’s relationship with G-d and their journey to the Promised Land.

Interpreting the Torah’s Teachings

The Torah serves as the base source of Jewish law. Just like other religious texts, it has been studied and interpreted differently over the years. Prominent rebbes, Chabad leaders, and scholars all have their own unique perspectives on what the Torah says about various issues, such as justice (tzedek). The Chabad movement began a few hundred years ago with a focus on the Torah’s ethics of altruism and loving-kindness (chesed)

What the Torah Says About Generosity and Charity

The concept of tzedakah, often translated as “charity” but more accurately means “righteousness,” and is mentioned in the Torah several times. Deuteronomy 15:7 says “If there is a poor man among your brothers… you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother”. This commandment emphasizes the importance of generosity and compassion towards those in need.  The Torah also teaches that giving tzedakah is not just a noble act, but a religious obligation. Leviticus 25:35 states, “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him…” These teachings form the foundation of Jewish philanthropy and social responsibility. The sages have interpreted these passages to mean that we have a duty to help others maintain their dignity (kavod habriyot) and self-sufficiency. 

The Eight Degrees of Giving

Jewish leader Maimonides established what is now a key reference for tzedakah, known as the Eight Degrees of Giving. This framework outlines eight levels of charitable giving, ranging from the least to the most meritorious. It suggests charitable acts go beyond mere financial assistance and also encompass helping others find employment, providing emotional support, and offering guidance. 

The Torah Is Everyone’s Guide to Doing Good

Jews collectively use the Torah as a guiding compass to living a sanctified life with meaning and compassion. It prescribes our shared purpose on this Earth – to build a better world, or tikkun olam, by performing good deeds (mitzvot). And everyone has a part to play.  Tumultuous times in Jewish history serve as examples of how strong we can be when we put community first. Support networks for families in need don’t just help individual households but also create knock-on psychological benefits for givers, as well as promote social and economic health across entire towns.  Community-distributed charity is particularly powerful for its ability to both reach and be practiced by everyone. You don’t need to have the pocketbook of a famous Jewish philanthropist to make a difference. Countless everyday male and female charity leaders prove that we can all build the world with kindness in one form or another, regardless of age, gender, or income level. 

The Torah Encourages Generosity but Tradition Puts It Into Practice

The Torah instructs Jews to put other souls before their own with humility (anavah). What that looks like is up for us to decide. Israelis look out for one another in a myriad of ways, from supporting charities for orphans, widows’ groups, and community healthcare initiatives to signing up to volunteer with organizations that address food insecurity and children’s education programs Jewish history has inspired many unique ways to give as well; pe’ah (corners), money for wheat (maos chitim), tithing (ma’aser kesafim), and visiting the sick (bikur cholim) all tie back to one or several ancient stories.  Charitable holidays are an opportunity to give back during important times of the Jewish calendar year. Passover’s meaning is related to the concept of communal responsibility and is therefore often honored by hospitable acts of welcoming and protecting the poor. Donations on Chanukah are a gift we can give alongside prayers and blessings for common strength. 

The Torah Guides Colel Chabad’s Generosity

Israel has numerous historic charities founded upon Jewish values. None, however, come close to matching the longstanding work of Colel Chabad. Our organization spearheads the country’s largest and most comprehensive social services network, providing essential support to those in need. For over two centuries, we have remained committed to addressing the evolving needs of Israel’s most vulnerable populations. 

Groups for Widows

Widows are often overlooked in society, yet face unique challenges. Our support groups provide a safe space for widows to connect during challenging times, share experiences, and receive ongoing emotional support.

Meals-On-Wheels

Our dedicated Meals-On-Wheels volunteers not only deliver food but also provide a friendly face and compassionate ear. Together, we’re helping combat loneliness and isolation among homebound elderly and disabled individuals across the country.

Food Banks and Soup Kitchens

Colel Chabad operates a network of food banks and soup kitchens that provide nutritious meals to people from every background. These facilities serve as more than just places to receive a hot meal; they are community hubs where individuals can find companionship, support, and a sense of belonging. 

Donate Online Today

Colel Chabad is the best charity to support if you want to ensure your donation goes far. Extensive connections throughout Israel enable us to administer critical charitable aid during times of crisis just like these. Deciding an amount to contribute is completely up to you – what matters is taking the first step of donating through an online giving platform. You can also get involved with our work and service on the ground by signing up to volunteer.  Charity and compassion are in everyone’s nature. Unlock yours with Colel Chabad today.
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