It is mentioned in the Torah in Leviticus 23:39, “and on the eighth day [of Sukkot] there shall be a solemn rest.” This is a little complicated, because Sukkot has seven days. So what is the eighth day?
Think of Sukkot as a great party (because it is a great party, after all.) Ancient Jews called it “HaChag,” THE Holiday, because it was the most joyful holiday of the entire year. Now, think about the last great party you attended. Did you leave early, or find yourself staying long after the official ending?
No matter what the holiday or special occasion, there’s an important mitzvah that should be part of our preparation. That mitzvah is tzedakah, money given for the relief of the unfortunate.
It is part of Jewish tradition to see to it that all Jews, no matter their income, are able to observe the mitzvot and enjoy the holiday. It’s also part of Jewish tradition to include non-Jewish people in our giving. My holidays always seem sweeter when I’ve remembered to perform this mitzvah.
Some options for giving tzedakah before a holiday:
— send a check to your synagogue, earmarked for the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund, or for any fund designated for assistance. The rabbi or synagogue are required to use those funds – you can feel secure that the funds will go to help someone. The Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund might pay for dentures for an indigent member, or help with someone’s rent, or pay the fee for a child to go to Jewish camp who otherwise cannot go.
— go online and donate to the charity of your choice. It doesn’t have to be a Jewish organization; one of my favorites is my local Community Food Bank. To locate the website of your nearest food bank, click here. But there are also many worthy Jewish funds; take the time to find an organization that speaks to your heart.
— Help a relative who is having money troubles. Yes, that counts as tzedakah, too. Just be sure not to hurt feelings or embarrass the recipient.
Not all needs are physical. Donations for education are tzedakah, too.
Important: The ancient rabbis emphasized that a small gift from a person who themselves were in need was just as important as a big check from a macher (big shot.) Everyone gives according to their means, so that all can enjoy the holiday. Don’t give beyond your means, though!
I hope that the upcoming holiday is sweet for you and your household!