An Act of Righteousness

Yael Eckstein  |  October 14, 2022

Yael Eckstein giving needy elderly woman a blanket

The righteous care about justice for the poor,
   but the wicked have no such concern.
—Proverbs 29:7

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

I was driving my kids to school late one day and my three-year-old insisted that we stop to thank the street sweeper. Realizing the educational value in the moment, I pulled over. My son thanked the man for keeping our streets clean, which put a huge smile on both of their faces.

Just after we drove off, my son insisted that we stop and return to the man. “We didn’t ask him his name! How can we really thank him if we don’t even know his name?” Again, realizing the importance of this encounter, I backed up and pulled over. We asked his name and learned that he was an Ethiopian Jew who had recently immigrated to Israel. We brought him some coffee and listened to his story.

I’m not sure what they were teaching in school that day. I have no idea what my kids missed because they were a few minutes late. But I have no doubt that the lessons learned and the smiles on all our faces — me, my son, my other kids, and the streetsweeper — were well worth it.

An Act of Righteousness

Proverbs teaches about the importance of our concern for those on the lowest rungs of society’s economic ladder. We read, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

In Hebrew, the word for charity, tzedakah, has a very different meaning than the ideas we typically associate with the word charity, described in the dictionary as “the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.”

Most people of faith associate charity with words like mercy, kindness, and compassion. However, the word tzedakah in Hebrew comes from two root words: tzedek, which means “justice,” and kah, a reference to God’s name. Taken together, tzedakah means “the justice of God,” and is most accurately translated as “righteous giving.”

In that sense, as our verse in Proverbs implies, giving charity is primarily an act of righteousness, a sacred obligation. It is a necessary act in our service to God.

God says, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine” (Haggai 2:8). Everything that we possess — from the wealth that we attain, to the talents and circumstances that allowed us to acquire it — are gifts from God.

It is our spiritual duty to give back to others.

Your Turn:

Join The Fellowship in caring for the needy as part of your “righteous giving.”