Don’t give to change the world, give to change yourself

By: Melissa Bienenfeld

Does my tzedakah really matter? Do my monetary contributions to organizations truly impact their activities? Don’t we have enough money in the Jewish community? Have we not built up our institutions enough to sustain us for the foreseeable future? And even if we have not, does my small contribution make a difference?

An idea came to me that knocked me off my feet with its simplicity and created a major paradigm shift for me in my charitable planning. Your charity is not about how it impacts the receiver, but rather how it impacts the giver. Tzedakah is a reflective act that changes you as a person.

In fact, the mitzvah of tzedakah reflects this basic human need to be a giver and contributor to society. Our tradition teaches that even a poor person who is a recipient of charity must give tzedakah– why? This makes no logical sense if we view the mitzvah as merely an obligation to support the poor among us. But it makes perfect sense if we understand that giving is not about the receiver at all. When a human being is not actively contributing to his/her community, an emotional and social deficit is created, leaving a gaping hole in his/her self worth. Look no further than the Jewish people wandering in the desert. As each of their needs were swiftly met through miraculous wonders, the complaints and social unrest grew. As each member of the community contributed in a small way to the construction of the Mishkan, God transformed the people into givers. Only then were they able to thrive in the socially interdependent community.

That is why we created MyTzedakah. Your monthly giving not only represents your values, but it transforms you into a giver. Giving and supporting each other is one of the most beautiful and creative things we can do to express our solidarity and commitment to Judaism. Don’t give to change the world, give to change yourself.


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