If you Googled “tzedakah” today you got about 598,000 results, topped by a l-o-n-g Wikipedia entry. Here are eight basic facts about tzedakah:
- Tzedakah (tzeh-dah-KAH or tzeh-DAH-kah) is the Jewish word closest to “charity.”
- The word tzedakah is one of a group of Hebrew words related to the idea of “justice.”
- Strictly speaking, tzedakah is money given for the relief of suffering or injustice.
- Tzedakah usually refers to monetary gifts, but can also refer to other kinds of contributions.
- Jews are commanded to give tzedakah for the benefit of the poor, the sick, and those who have suffered an injustice.
- More broadly, people use the word tzedakah to refer to money given for charitable causes.
- Every Jew is commanded to give tzedakah, even those who are recipients of tzedakah.
- It is customary to give tzedakah in memory of the dead, in honor of others, and before Shabbat and holidays.
- The proper amount of tzedakah depends on the means of the giver. Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah that the ideal is 10% of income, and that more than 20% is foolhardy unless given in time of famine or to aid a captive. One should not give so much tzedakah that he puts himself at risk of needing to receive tzedakah from others.
For more about tzedakah, MyJewishLearning.com has a great article.