Tzedakah [tsedaˈka] or Ṣ'daqah [sˤəðaːˈqaː] in Classical
Hebrew (Hebrew: צדקה, is a Hebrew word literally meaning
justice or righteousness but commonly used to signify charity - 
though it is a different concept from the modern English understanding
of "charity," which is typically understood as a spontaneous act of
goodwill and a marker of generosity, where as tzedakah is an
obligation. In Judaism, tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to
do what is right and just, which
Judaism emphasizes is an important
part of living a spiritual life. Unlike voluntary philanthropy,
tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation that must be performed
regardless of financial standing, even by poor people.
considered to be one of the three main acts that can annul a less than
favorable heavenly decree.
The word tzedakah is based on the Hebrew (צדק, Tzedek) meaning
righteousness, fairness or justice, and is related to the Hebrew word
Tzadik, meaning righteous as an adjective (or righteous individual as
a noun in the form of a substantive).
Maimonides says that, while the second highest form of tzedakah is to
give donations anonymously to unknown recipients, the highest form is
to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient
supporting himself instead of living upon others.
1 Precedents in ancient Israel
2 In rabbinical literature of the classical and Middle Ages
3 In practice
4 Analogies in Islam
6 See also
9 External links
Precedents in ancient Israel
Hebrew Bible teaches the obligation to aid those in need, but does
not employ one single term for this obligation. The term tzedekah
occurs 157 times in the Masoretic Text, typically in relation to
"righteousness" per se, usually in the singular, but sometimes in the
plural tzedekot, in relation to acts of charity. In the Septuagint
this was sometimes translated eleemosyne, "almsgiving."
In rabbinical literature of the classical and Middle Ages
In classical rabbinical literature, it was argued that the Biblical
regulations concerning left-overs only applied to corn fields,
orchards, and vineyards, and not to vegetable gardens; the classical
rabbinical writers were much stricter in regard to who could receive
the remains. It was stated that the farmer was not permitted to
benefit from the gleanings, and was not permitted to discriminate
among the poor, nor try to frighten them away with dogs or lions
Pe'ah 5:6) the farmer was not even allowed to help
one of the poor to gather the left-overs. However, it was also argued
that the law was only applicable in Canaan, (
Jerusalem Talmud. Pe'ah
2:5) although many classical rabbinical writers who were based in
Babylon observed the laws there (
Hullin 134b) it was also seen as
only applying to Jewish paupers, but poor non-
Jews were allowed to
benefit for the sake of civil peace (
Maimonides lists his Eight Levels of Giving, as written in the Mishneh
Torah, Hilkhot matanot aniyim ("Laws about Giving to Poor People"),
Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a
partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need;
finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant,
partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying
Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or
public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of
tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient.
Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient.
Giving tzedakah before being asked.
Giving adequately after being asked.
Giving willingly, but inadequately.
Giving "in sadness" (giving out of pity): It is thought that
Maimonides was referring to giving because of the sad feelings one
might have in seeing people in need (as opposed to giving because it
is a religious obligation). Other translations say "Giving
Tzedakah motif on a Jewish gravestone. Jewish cemetery in Otwock
In practice, most
Jews carry out tzedakah by donating a portion of
their income to charitable institutions, or to needy people that they
may encounter; the perception among many modern day
Jews is that if
donation of this form is not possible, the obligation of tzedakah
still requires that something be given. Traditional
practice ma'sar kesafim, tithing 10% of their income to support those
Special acts of tzedakah are performed on significant days; at
weddings, Jewish brides and bridegrooms would traditionally give to
charity, to symbolise the sacred character of the marriage; at
Passover, a major holiday in Jewish tradition, it is traditional to be
welcoming towards hungry strangers, and feed them at the table; at
Purim it is considered obligatory for every Jew to give food to one
other person, and gifts to at least 2 poor people, in an amount
that would equate to a meal each, for the purpose of increasing the
total happiness during the month.
As for the more limited form of tzedakah expressed in the biblical
laws, namely the leaving of gleanings from certain crops, the Shulchan
Aruch argues that during the exile Jewish farmers are not obliged to
obey it. Nevertheless, in modern Israel, rabbis of Orthodox Judaism
Jews allow gleanings to be consumed by the poor and by
strangers, and all crops (not just gleanings) by anyone and everyone
(free, not bought nor sold) during sabbatical years.
In addition, one must be very careful about how one gives out tzedakah
money. It is not sufficient to just give to anyone or any
organization, rather, one must check the credentials and finances to
be sure that your
Tzedakah money will be used wisely, efficiently and
effectively "Do not steal from a poor person, for (s)he is poor,"
(Proverbs 22:22) and from Talmudic-era commentaries including Numbers
Rabba 5:2. It is taught that
Tzedakah money was never yours to begin
with, rather, it always belongs to God, who merely entrusts you with
it so that you may use it properly. Hence it is your obligation to
ensure that it is received by those deserving of it.
There are many examples of
Tzedakah funds that operate according to
Maimonides' principles above (particularly #2), including Hands on
Tzedakah (working with nonprofits in the U.S. and in Israel), and
Mitzvah Heroes Fund (working mainly with nonprofits in Israel).
Paamonim is a nonprofit organization in
Israel that operates according
to Maimonides' first principle.
Gaon of Vilna
Gaon of Vilna considered about giving Tzedaqah to all householders in
our city with tax-benefit.
Analogies in Islam
The term is similar with
Sadaqah or Saddka (Arabic: صدقة ), an
Islamic term meaning "voluntary charity"; but since
Tzedakah means an
obligatory due to pay for the poor, then its actual Arabic counterpart
is "Zakat", not Sadqah. Only the financially capable Muslims have to
do Zakat, it goes to seven or eight categories starting with the poor
Muslims and heavily indebted ones, etc.
Tzedakah pouch and coins on fur-like padding.
Tzedakah box on Jewish grave stone. Jewish cemetery in Otwock.
Tzedakah box on Jewish grave stone. Jewish cemetery in Pappenheim.
JNF collection box (pushke). The blue box of the Jewish National Fund,
was collecting donations for the establishment of the state in the
Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin; To Be A Jew. Basic Books, New York; 1972,
^ Ronald L. RandleThe JPS guide to Jewish traditions Jewish
Publication Society, 2004 p. 531 "
Tzedakah (hqdx) The Bible repeatedly
stresses the obligation to aid those in need, but never designates a
special term for this requirement. The Rabbis adopted the word
"tzedakah" to apply to charity, primarily in the form ..."
^ "The word "almsgiving", however, is far from expressing the full
meaning of the Hebrew ẓedaḳah, which is, charity in the spirit of
uprightness or justice. According to the Mosaic conception, wealth is
a loan from God, and the poor have a certain claim on the possessions
of the rich; while the rich are positively enjoined to share God's
bounties with the poor."Kohler, Kaufmann. "Alms". 1906 Jewish
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
^ As per
Gesenius Lexicon; "Deuterony 6:25 καὶ
^ "... derived from the Greek ἐλεημοσύνη (mercifulness),
used by Greek-speaking
Jews to denote almost exclusively the offering
of charity to the needy, from a feeling of both compassion and
righteousness (ẓedaḳah). (See LXX. (note: Septuagint) on Prov.
xxi. 21, and Dan. iv. 24.)"Kohler, Kaufmann. "Alms". 1906 Jewish
Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, 4:11
^ Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, 1:14
^ "Esther 9 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre".
^ Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 332:1
Rabbi Levi; Rivkah Lubitch. "Shmita". Ynetnews. Retrieved
10 February 2012.
Rabbi Wayne Dossick, Living Judaism: The Complete Guide to Jewish
Belief, Tradition, and Practice., pages 249–251.
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