If you Googled “tzedakah” today you got about 598,000 results, topped by a l-o-n-g Wikipedia entry. Here are nine basic facts about tzedakah:

  1. Tzedakah (tzeh-dah-KAH or tzeh-DAH-kah) is the Jewish word closest to “charity.”
  2. The word tzedakah is one of a group of Hebrew words related to the idea of “justice.”
  3. Strictly speaking, tzedakah is money given for the relief of suffering or injustice.
  4. Tzedakah usually refers to monetary gifts, but can also refer to other kinds of contributions.
  5. Jews are commanded to give tzedakah for the benefit of the poor, the sick, and those who have suffered an injustice.
  6. More broadly, people use the word tzedakah to refer to money given for charitable causes.
  7. Every Jew is commanded to give tzedakah, even those who are recipients of tzedakah.
  8. It is customary to give tzedakah in memory of the dead, in honor of others, and before Shabbat and holidays.
  9. 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 never 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.

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