Religious Studies

Judaism: concern for others

Most religions give guidance about how we should treat other people. The Jewish faith teaches that the wealthy owe money to the poor.

Concern for others

Jews should give a tenth of their wealth to the poor; this practice is called tzedaka (righteousness). This money is owed to the poor and if people do not give it then they are robbing others. Even people who are very poor should still give something.

It is best to give tzedaka as an indefinite loan without interest this does not cause embarrassment and will help people become self-supporting. It is not as good simply to give money.

The best way of giving is to help a person help themselves so that they may become self-supporting

Maimonides

If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs.

Deuteronomy 19:9-10

Many Jews have collection boxes in their homes called pushkes and children are expected to give some of their pocket money as tzedaka. Jews must also make sure that any excess is given to the poor:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.

Leviticus 19:9-10

Jews believe that it is wrong to let yourself become poor because you then become another person’s responsibility.

It is better to make your Sabbath like a weekday than to need other people’s support.

Gemilut Hasadim - loving kindness

Gemilut Hasadim means ‘the giving of loving-kindness’ and applies to all types of charitable works. It is a mitzvah (commandment) that an individual completes gemilut hasadim without expecting anything in return.

The Talmud teaches that the giving of gemilut hasadim is more important than tzedaka for three reasons:

  • charity can be provided only to the poor, while gemilut hasadim can be given to the rich and poor
  • charity can only be given to the living, while gemilut hasadim can be bestowed upon the living or dead (by attending a funeral service)
  • charity can only be offered with money, while gemilut hasadim can be given through money or assistance

There are many examples of Jewish charitable organisations including: Jewish Care, Norwood, and Tzedek.

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