The Netzari Faith

Netzarim, Original followers of Yeshua & His 12

tzedaka mashiach | Practicing Tzedakah / Charity

Giving may seem like a sacrifice at times  (especially when money is tight) or we often wonder if the person we give to is worthy or really needs our help, but in reality being charitable to others does more for us, for our relationships with G-d and with our fellow human beings than it does to the people who we give to. Jewish people are renowned for being generous when it comes to charitable giving.

The Hebrew word for charity is “tzedaka”. The word Tzedakah means righteousness, justice or fairness. Doing tzedaka, often translated as €œjustice€ or €œcharity€, is incumbent on all Believers according to the Torah. Usually doing tzedaka involves putting a few coins in a tzedaka box. Our Sages, teach us that there is a lot more to this mitzva than meets the eye.

Don Isaac Abarbanel served as finance minister to Ferdinand and Isabella prior to the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain in 1492. He is reported to have told them that all he owned is what he had given to others.

Giving charity to the poor has a special place among the 613 commandments of the Torah. Actually, the word “charity” is a poor and misleading description of this important precept.

In Judaism, it’s common to follow Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Tzedakah (the Hebrew word for charity or justice found in the Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14). The aim is to give as close as possible to level 1. It’s considered a ladder that you climb gradually over time as you mature and have the means to do better. There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.

[1] The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .

[2] A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the €œanonymous fund€ that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator.

[3] A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.

[4] A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.

[5] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.

[6] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.

[7] A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.

[8] A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.

Tzedakah is not only used to fulfill physical requirements of the needy but it can also be used to lift others spiritual and psychological well being. Maimonides wrote, “If a poor person requests money from you, and you have nothing to give him, speak to him consolingly.”

There is a story of a beggar who asked a man for money. The man had no money to give to the beggar, so he said to the beggar, “Brother, I have nothing to give you.? The beggar thanked the man. The man asked, “Why did you thank me? I have given you nothing? ” The beggar responded, “You called me brother.” Tzedakah, if done properly, preserves the dignity of the person on the receiving end. Maimonides eight levels of tzedakah are In ascending order….

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. The opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies before they die. Charity implies that your heart motivates you to give and maybe give a little extra than you normailly would; tzedakah, however, means doing the right thing no matter your feelings. I guess tzedakah might look like giving to someone in need even if your heart is not in it because it is the right thing to do.

In practice, most Believers carry out tzedakah by donating a portion of their income to charitable institutions, or to needy people that they may encounter; the perception among many modern day Jews is that if donation of this form is not possible, the obligation of tzedakah still requires that something be given. Traditional Jews commonly practice “ma’aser kesafim,” tithing 10% of their income to support those in need.

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