Giving Justly

Food Bank Donations

Food Bank Donations (Photo credit: NJLA: New Jersey Library Association)

After the last long weekend (almost a week, really) of consumption (Thanksgiving aka Turkey Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday) two clever nonprofit executives have come up with the idea of “Giving Tuesday.” So let’s see:  first give thanks, then consume, then give?

Jewish tradition suggests that giving be part of our budget from the beginning, not an afterthought at the end.  However this new holiday (?) offers is a reminder near the end of the secular year that our lives are not just about us. One measure of a person is the good that he or she manages to do in the world.

How much should we give for tzedakah? That’s the Jewish word for charitable giving. Let me ask you that question another way:  guesstimate the following figures:

  • the cable bill per month
  • amount spent on coffee drinks per month
  • or some other not-necessary-for-survival budget item

Now compare that to “given in tzedakah a month.” Tzedakah includes:

  • money to charities
  • to your temple
  • to Cousin Fred to pay his rent last month
  • in-kind gifts to charities (canned goods to the Food Bank)
  • the dollar to the homeless woman

The idea is that this giving relieves suffering and makes life more livable for people who need help. The question is, how much was it? And how does that compare to your cable bill? Your coffee bill? How does it compare to any other nice-but-not-necessary-for-life item in your budget?

If the numbers appear to be out of balance in favor of tzedakah, good for you! If they are out of balance the other direction, I encourage you to think about writing a check  on Giving Tuesday. It’s another way of keeping life in balance.

(If you’d rather do this by a more traditional method, you can use Maimonides‘ rule of thumb: 5% of income if you have a low income, 10% if you are well-off. I know, those are challenging percentages, but it is the ideal, and there are people who manage to do it, most of them on the lower, not the upper end of the income scale.)

Consider giving for justice’s sake, not just on Tuesday, but on a regular basis.  As Hillel says, “Who is rich? The person who is happy with what he has.” (Avot 4.1) The more we give, the richer we feel.  That’s the miracle.

2 Responses to Giving Justly

  1. Maskaksid says:

    To Y : hello, thank you for refering to my entry.You say: When sonomee decides X is a fact and builds a thesis on it, while forgetting he decided X is a fact and not his opinion, its hard not to be antagonist against it. Brilliant. However, look how you support your argument: Its nice that prof. Levine has his opinion on that, but thousands of Jewish citizens of countries like Russia, or even France would love to disagree . So you check the validity of Prof. Levine’s thought by the quantity of Jews in France or Russia that would love to disagree ?? You know what? There are very many people in the world that think that the Earth is flat, or that some turtles support the hemisphere from beneath. So you invoke their position regarding the debate on Earth. And bringing that kind of argument (please do not immerse into self-righteous wrath, it will not change anything) you make yourself antagonist ? You think antagonism gives you any privilege? Is THIS the way you envision debate on topics important to Jews, or indeed the atmosphere within the Jewish commonwealth? By putting yourself in position of righteous attack? Please contemplate thoroughly your answer.

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