The Hebrew word tzedakah means more than just “charity”; it comes from the root tzedek meaning “righteousness” or “justice.” Giving to those in need is an act of justice and righteousness, and teaches us kindness.
There is another aspect to giving tzedakah: the attitude with which it is done. Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, writes that one who gives with a sour expression and a negative attitude loses his merit, even if he gives a thousand gold pieces; rather, giving should be done with joy, along with empathy and compassion. Compassion is further emphasized as the Rambam goes on to say that if a poor person asks of you to give him something, but you do not have anything in your possession to give him, you can comfort him with words. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor 10:4–5)
When giving to those in need, let good character be the fuel that drives you. In giving generously, with the right heart, you are setting a positive example for your children and those who look up to you.
Keep in mind that tzedakah is not restricted to gifts of money only. Some other forms of charity include:
Giving your time. Volunteering at a homeless shelter, orphanage, or soup kitchen is a great way to use your time to help the less fortunate. Maybe you know someone who doesn’t have a car. You can offer to drive them to and from the grocery store so that it will be easier for them to buy their groceries. Even taking your time to encourage someone with a nice word is a way to show empathy for their plight.
Using your skills and talents. If you are a mechanic, you can use your skills to help fix someone’s car who can’t afford it. If you know how to sew, knit, or crochet, you can donate something you make to an orphanage, a Veteran’s hospital, or someone else in need. Do you know how to cut hair or do manicures and pedicures? You can offer your services to those who need a little pick-me-up.
Giving food and clothing. Do you love to cook? Maybe you know a family who is in need. A nice warm meal not only helps them with their food expenses, but warms their hearts as well. A gift card for the grocery store or a restaurant is another excellent way to let someone know you care about their needs. Do you have clothes that you don’t wear anymore? There are many places where you can donate them. Maybe you love to shop and have the means to buy new clothes for someone who needs them. This is another way to make someone feel good as well as valuable.
What have you been blessed with that you can bless someone else with? In the end, no matter what you have to offer, if you use it to help others who are in need, it is sure to bring joy not only to those you help, but to you as well.