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Whose Money Is It Anyway?

Whose Money Is It Anyway?

Ethics 3:7

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That question probably crosses the minds of millions of Americans as they scramble to meet the tax-filing deadline.

For some, it is a bitter thought: I work myself to the bone, and after the mortgage and the bills and money for the bare necessities to keep me working to the bone, the little that's left--the few dollars which I could have used for something that I want--goes to "the government"...

To others, it is a more positive notion: I contribute a relatively minor portion of our income, and in return, the government pays for our national defense and other vital services, funds scientific research and cultural institutions, and provides for the needy with a variety of programs--all things I would need to, or ought to, do myself...

We Jews also have a "tax" of sorts. We're speaking of course of tzedakah, commonly referred to as "charity" but which more precisely means "justice" and "righteousness." The Jewish attitude is that when we share our blessings with the needy, we are not being generous or charitable; rather, we are righting a wrong, correcting an imbalance in G‑d's world--an imbalance we believe G‑d created only because He desired that we should correct it.

In the words of the Talmud's Ethics of the Fathers:

Rabbi Elazar of Bartosah would say: Give Him what is His, for you, and whatever is yours, are His. As King David says (I Chronicles 29:14), "For everything comes from You, and from Your own hand we have given to You."


It is significant that Rabbi Elazar doesn't simply say, "for everything that is yours is his," but rather, "for you, and everything that is yours, are His."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that one could take the Jewish concept of tzedakah to the opposite extreme, and think: In that case, I'm not really doing anything! After all, nothing is mine, and in passing along the requisite tzedakah, I'm simply doing my duty. There's no cause for me to feel that I accomplished anything, nor to derive any sense of satisfaction from the deed...

In truth, however, there is a "you," and there are things that are "yours." Both are a product of how the Creator configured His Creation, granting the human being free choice, self-awareness, and resources that are legally and morally his or hers. It is only that these are all part of a larger reality and a larger truth, in which it's all there to serve the divine purpose.

So when we give to the needy, our act of tzedakah has true moral and spiritual significance. We are giving of ourselves, out of a recognition that "ours" and "ourselves" are a subset of a greater truth. And this recognition itself is a true existential leap, a breaking free of the constraints of self to connect to the infinite reality of G‑d.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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john muchiri NAIROBI, KENYA February 23, 2008

who's money is it ? In the Christian faith they also have the Swahili word sad aka which i believe they must have borrowed from the jewish tzedaka.
Am happy to know it means justice because i have always felt that when we have more than we need ,then it means we must be keeping what belongs to another so the right thing to do is to pass it on. Don't you agree. Reply

Hadassah Rut Bat ANONYMOUS Austin, TX November 16, 2007

Anonymous Giving!
I do give. I prefer to give to someone I do not know and that I never see and that I never meet. Anonymously! I think it is supposed to be like that. Nobody is embarrassed and nobody can feel smug and superior because they had money to give and the person who received it did not. I try to do a little good every day and give as much money as I can --anonymously!

We ARE supposed to help alleviate the suffering. It is our job. Giving helps.

Another good mitzvah is to find someone a job so their family will eat and not be homeless. Reply

anonymous, west hempstead, new York west hempstead, new york July 11, 2007

whose money is it anyway? I was deeply moved by the article "whose money is it anyway? It is good to know that tzedaka really means "justice" and that when people give tzedaka they "are righting a wrong and correcting an imbalance." I wish that this message could reach more people, especially to those who are very wealthy. I wish that more money could be donated to the Jewish Day schools and other yeshivas so that every Jewish child will be able to have a proper Jewish education. To me, this is correcting an imbalance as many Jewish parents cannot afford the yeshiva tuition. All Jewish children should be able to have a yeshiva education. Where I live, I see so much money wasted on lavish Bar and Bat-Mitzvahs and enormous home renovations. If some of that money could be given to a Yeshiva Tuition relief fund, that would be justice. Reply

Stephen Brown New Bedford, MA April 22, 2007

Articale on Tax This was a very beautiful little exerpt on the the giving of Tsadaka as not being something to be proud of but simply righting an imabalance that G-d created for us to correct. Although it is beyond me to confirm or deny this assertion it sure is a joyous aproach to charity. Intellegent yet spiritual commentary like this is one reason why I keep coming back to Chabad for inspiration even if I cannot be a perfect Jew. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY April 22, 2007

G-d's Miracles are that he knows how much is required for us to live on and to give for charity. I am amazed at times when I think that I am going to have problems paying for my biils, and G-d gives me just the right amount that is required. I thank G-d evry day for His gifts to all. Thanks for this interesting article. Reply

Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.
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