Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. — Proverbs 28:27
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.
Several years ago, a story aired on the news about a couple from the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon who had devoted their lives to giving. Riki Lehrer explained how it all began when her husband Avi discovered that there were Sabbath-observing Jews staying in the hospital near their home. Avi realized that these people had no place to go for the Sabbath meal, so he invited them to his own home.
From there, the couple increased their acts of kindness, hosting up to 40 strangers in their home every Sabbath, some of whom slept there as well. But the Lehrer family didn’t stop there. Riki and her children began visiting the hospital daily to deliver food and a warm smile to the patients of all faiths. They looked out for new mothers and helped secure provisions for their babies.
Every Friday, Riki made pots of chicken soup, which she sent to the hospital in containers so that everyone could have a taste of the Sabbath. As one patient told Riki, “We need more people like you. If everyone was like you, things would be a whole lot better.” For Riki, the smile and glow on the faces of the people she helped was all the reward she needed and gave her the strength required to do it all again the next week.
Where do the Lehrers get their physical resources? I personally do not know. But I do know that in Proverbs, King Solomon taught the following: “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” As the Jewish sages teach, based on this verse, “No one ever becomes poor from giving tzedakah, charity.”
Somehow, when we give to God’s purposes, we don’t lose anything. It doesn’t make sense according to physical laws, but it is a spiritual law that supersedes physical law. Now, this doesn’t mean that a person can transfer every penny out of his or her bank account and hand it over to a charity without missing it.
In fact, in Judaism there are laws governing giving that require us to give away 10 percent of our earnings but not more than 20 (unless in unusual situations where a person is exceedingly wealthy). Yet, for the majority of us, this teaching simply means that we can give to God’s purposes without worrying that we will lose out.
When we give tzedakah, we lose nothing, but gain eternal blessings. Think of this the next time you are asked to give. Who’s really getting the benefit? The giver or the receiver? In God’s economy, the giver is the receiver of His benevolence just as much, if not more, than is the beneficiary.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President