One of the most important concepts in Judaism is tzedakah—the obligation to provide for the needy and give charity. Our sages explain that tzedakah protects a person from ill fate, generates blessings and hastens the final redemption.

There is one detail in the laws of tzedakah that is somewhat puzzling. The Talmud states that everyone is obligated to give charity, including someone who is totally dependant on, and supported by a communal welfare fund. Isn't this a little absurd? If charity is to care for the needy, why should the beneficiary make him/herself even more needy by giving some of those funds away?

Those who find it difficult to give risk becoming self-absorbed and egocentricBut this law reveals the power of this mitzvah. The goal of charity is to benefit the giver as much as (or even more than) the receiver. In the development of every human being it is critical that we learn to give. Acts of kindness elevate our character, creating feelings of sensitivity, empathy and humility. When we give to others, we access the infinite power of our soul to reach beyond our limited self and enter the world of another human being. Generosity also brings a sense of fulfillment and inner happiness. Those who find it difficult to give (even with a good excuse) risk becoming self-absorbed and egocentric.

The person that depends on charity is not really helping the community financially by giving some of his money away. On the contrary, he will now be in need of a further handout. But he is helping himself. He is learning to give and extend himself. He is becoming a better person, which in turn has a positive affect on everyone and helps make the world a better place.

When we give, we actually receive more than we gave. What we have given might be necessary, but it is finite. What we receive is the gift of sensitivity. That is priceless and infinite, and we can share it with the rest of the world.