Lifeways > Judaism

Tzedakah and Charity as a Mitzvah
and Symbolic Allegory
by Gregory Johnson

As a practitioner of Adonaikido, and as someone with Unitarian Universalist upbringing, I like to learn from and apply the teachings and practices of various religions. Judaism offers us some extensive teachings on the principle of Charity (referred to as Tzedakah in Hebrew).

Just about every day, I find money on the street or sidewalk. Usually I find coins, but occasionally I find bills. I collect them as a form of Charity or Tzedakah.

The pennies are special to me for symbolic reasons because as I pick them up, I’m reminded of how God can restore a person who has seemingly been discarded, dirty, and viewed to be of little value.

Sometimes I find an old, dirty, scratched penny. Perhaps it takes some labor to free the penny that is stuck to the tar in the street. Sometimes I find a penny hidden in filth and dirt that most people wouldn’t want to touch. Despite what condition they are in, old, new, shiny, dull, clean, filthy, they all have the same value. People are much the same when God finds them. They might be dirty and stuck in a tar pit, but God can get them out of that pit and restore them to usefulness.

On one occasion, I wrote a financial appeal letter for someone. Although the letter cost only a few pennies, it was able to help someone receive over $100,000 needed for a community outreach center. It was then I realized the power of a few pennies when combining their efforts. It reminded me of the person who traded a red paperclip for a house. I became more diligent and determined to find and save more pennies.

I sometimes contribute my own money to the collection as an expression of thanks, concern, or as part of prayer — not to pay for the prayer to be answered, but as a good deed (Mitzvah) that can help release the power (or Karma) necessary to make good things happen. I’ve been quite surprised by the combination of Tzedakah and prayer, or Tzedakah alone. Miraculous events (or at least amazing coincidences) seem to coincide with acts of kindness, charity, and good deeds (Mitzvot).

For several years now I’ve been collecting discarded money and waiting for the right time to donate what I’ve collected. Last evening was Pesach Sheni (the second Passover). It’s a day in the Jewish Calendar considered to be symbolic of second chances, restoration, and returning to the right path. So, I decided that Pesach Sheni would be the perfect annual occasion to gather my collected coins and money for donating to charity.

According to Chasidic teachings:

“Each and every person is to see himself… as half righteous…. By performing one mitzvah, he tips the scales for himself and for the entire world on the side of merit, bringing deliverance and salvation for himself and for all others.” [source]

Learn More. Below are additional sources for learning more about Charity or Tzedakah.