Teaching Tzedakah

by Robin Heinz Bratslavsky

Just about every kid who goes to Jewish preschool knows about tzedakah. The hand-decorated tzedakah boxes (pushkes in Yiddish) they bring home inspire them to drop in spare coins to help the needy.

But what about their parents? Most affiliated Jews are comfortable, even dedicated, to the idea of philanthropy. You might even say it’s in our genetic makeup, a part of our Jewish identity: tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

At its most basic level, tzedakah can mean dropping a few coins in a box. The greatest level is helping a needy person to become self-reliant.

“The word tzedakah, which has come to mean giving in most Jewish circles, actually carries a bouquet of meanings, including righteousness and justice,” said Rabbi Noah Zvi Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino and co-founder of Netiya: The L.A. Jewish Coalition on Food, Environment and Social Justice.

The Jewish community has no shortage of ways to teach people about the different ways to give.

Excerpted, with permission, from The art of giving, Tribe Magazine.