Judaism mandates that we give tzedakah. It is our tradition to honor special occasions and the memory of loved ones on both the occasion and anniversary of the death. Beth El offers many opportunities to continue the tradition. Learn more about the meaning of tzedakah in Jewish tradition, opportunities for making contributions, and instructions for donating.
First, a little background. The word tzedakah comes from the Hebrew work tzedek, meaning “justice.” Performing deeds of justice is one of Judaism’s most important obligations. The Torah tells us “Tzedek tzedek you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). Many years later, the Talmud taught us “Tzedakah is equal to all the other commandments combined” (Bara Bathra 9b). According to Jewish law, one who doesn’t give is both mean-spirited and acting illegally. Historically, self-governing Jewish communities assessed tzedakah just as the government assessed taxes. With respect to how much to give, the Torah legislates ten percent of earnings every third year (Deuteronomy 26:12) and an additional percentage of income each year (Leviticus 19:9-10). After the destruction of the Temple and the suspension of an annual tithe levied to support the Kohanim and Levi’im, the Talmud again ordered Jews to give at least ten percent of their annual net earnings to tzedakah. The great scholar Maimonides (Rambam) wrote an important treatise on tzedakah, identifying eight levels of charity.