Friday, January 12, 2007
One of the things I love about Judaism is that it offers a rhythm and continuity to my life. In a world that is so unpredictable, it is reassuring to know what to expect.
Every Friday evening is Shabbat. Each spring brings Passover and Shavuot. The autumn is filled with holiday and ritual. Blessings, prayers, melodies I have known since childhood spill from my lips as they will likely do even if I live to be 100... they are deeply ingrained.
I am going to add some rhythm to this blog and each Friday I will feature Judaica that is specific for Shabbat... things to brighten our homes and lighten our hearts in this unpredictable world.
One of the Shabat rituals that is observed, is giving some money for charity. This is referred to as tzedakah. Tzedakah is more than charity- it is a just and benevolent act. Traditional Jews tithe- they give at least 10% of their income to just works and programs.
The physician Rambam (Moses Maimonides) wrote about the giving of Tzedakah. Like all acts, giving tzedakh can be a holy act or not so holy. So here are Rambam's levels of giving... from least to most holy
8. When donations are given grudgingly.
7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.
6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.
5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.
4. When the recipient is aware of the donor's identity, but the donor does not know the identity of the recipient.
3. When the donor is aware of the recipient's identity, but the recipient is unaware of the source.
2. When the donor and recipient are unknown to each other.
1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.
The work featured today is a rather modern approach to tzedakah boxes, the receptacle many use to place those weekly donations. I like the clean look of these. The colorful aluminum trio are by Adi Sidler who is a graduate of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. The box directly above was created by a third generation artisan in Israel who studied industrial design and fine mechanics at a Jerusalem technical school after his army service.