Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Give A Little A Lot

Making the decision about to whom and how much tzedakah (charity) one should distribute can be extremely difficult. The pressure of this decision is made even greater by both a constant barrage of requests and an underlying question of whether one’s donations are being used properly.

Tzedakah is an important component of Jewish law regarding interpersonal interactions, and much has been written about the subject by Jewish scholars throughout history. Included in these discussions are recommendations on priorities in giving (family first, then immediate community, etc) and the best means of dividing one’s funds. 

One fascinating question is whether it is better to give $100 to ten people or $1 to a thousand people. Giving a large sum to a single person or organization is beneficial to the receiver. A larger sum obviously has more “buying” power. However, many of the greatest Jewish scholars (including  Maimonides and the Chofetz Chaim) state that it is better to give less to more individuals because this is beneficial to both the receiver and the giver. Not only is each act of giving a mitzvah unto itself, but the repetition of the act makes it easier to perform. This concept recognizes that it is natural for a person to be reluctant to give, but, as the Torah states: “You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give him...” (Deuteronomy 15:10).

It is interesting to note how the concept of #GivingTuesday reflects, in many ways, this concept of tzedakah. On #GivingTuesday, a host of organizations ask to be considered for one’s charitable support as a means of reframing the buying-frenzy attitude associated with the sales of Black Friday. 

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