Blessed are those who act justly,
who always do what is right. — Psalm 106:3
In Judaism, the word for charity is tzedakah, which literally means, “righteous giving.” This concept goes far beyond the traditional understanding of charity. It is not just an act of kindness and benevolence — it is an act of justice and righteousness. This is one of 12 devotions focusing on tzedakah and how we can incorporate its lessons into our lives. To learn more, download our complimentary Bible study on tzedakah here.
In Psalm 106 we read, “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.” When translated from the original Hebrew, it reads, “Blessed are those . . . who always perform acts of charity.” Indeed, this is the traditional Jewish understanding of the verse.
But we must ask: How is it possible to engage in acts of charity all the time? Certainly, the average person needs time for his or her self – to eat, to sleep, to relax, and so forth.
I once heard a story about a man who was asked what his wife did for living. He replied, “She takes care of kids who have no other home. She feeds them, bathes them, and takes care of them. She also spends her own money on the things they need.” After the man stopped speaking and the listener looked impressed, he added, “By the way, the kids happen to be our own.” Then he was quiet, as if to say: “Should that really matter?”
The point that this man was trying to make is that acts of kindness are relative. I can take care of my kids, and it can be completely selfish – if I do it out of a desire to make myself feel good and for my kids to make me look good. Or, I can take care of my kids as an incredible act of kindness – I care for them out of sincere concern for their well-being and I do it with love. It’s all in how we see it.
Along those lines, this verse teaches us that, with the right perspective, everything we do can be turned into acts of charity and kindness, including taking care of our own children. It all depends on how and why we do what we do. Even taking care of ourselves can be an act of kindness if our ultimate goal is to so we can better serve others.
Do I eat to indulge in pleasure, or to give my body energy in order to help others? Do I sleep in order to indulge in laziness, or to be able to wake up refreshed, ready to serve God? When our ultimate goal is to help others, everything we do – even what we do for ourselves – is counted by God as an act of charity. Indeed, it is possible to be engaged in kindness all of the time!
What are you doing today? Or more importantly, why? Make it your goal to help others. If you earn money, share it. If you relax and re-energize in the morning, help someone out in the afternoon. We can transform every single moment of the day into an act of charity and love.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President