How good is money
In Judaism, morality matters more than money. We are encouraged to spend more time thinking about what I am going to live for rather than what I am going to live from. If you are fortunate enough to have wealth you are obligated by Jewish law to share it with those who are in need. The minimal offering of a tithe of one’s salary for charity is mandated and giving more than this is meritorious. Jewish communities set up charitable funds wherever they are – and while charity begins at home it certainly doesn’t end there! Spread your wealth as far as it can go.
The Hebrew word for charity is tzedakah and is an axiomatic for the Jewish faith and I would suggest is the basis for the commitment to charity by the other monotheistic religions that followed it. There are many references to the imperative to give charity in the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible including “You shall surely open your hands to the poor.”
The so-called Laws of Charity are an integral part of the Talmud and Codes of Jewish Law. The word tzedakah means a ‘just generosity.’ Sharing your wealth is an act of justice, a way of improving the world, not just an act prompted by a generous heart. It is however optimal to give, not just because God expects you to, but to give with joy and love; give what you’re expected to give and do it with love!
In medieval times when Jews were barred from most professions but allowed to be money lenders (think Shylock) and then they were damned for being successful at it. Jews were forced to look after themselves, to create charity funds for all in need in their community as they were treated as pariahs by others and persecuted and hated for who they were. They had a passion for education and survival which helped them become successful – they were very often more literate and learned more than most of their non-Jewish neighbours.
In most societies where Jews have lived they have become prosperous and this in turn has attracted jealousy and rivalry. It is simply untrue that all Jews are rich – I, for example work for Jewish Care Victoria which supports hundreds of economically struggling Jewish families, Jews living in poverty or in need. The Jewish community is represented on the rich list of Australia but we are also represented in so many philanthropic endeavours across Australia. Rich Jews share their wealth not only with other Jews but with all Australians from hospitals to the arts, from First Peoples to refugees.
Rosh Hashanah is a time when we think about what we can do to improve ourselves, better our relationship with God, and give to others who are less fortunate to make their New Year sweeter. If you would like to make a donation to Jewish Care’s Rosh Hashanah appeal visit www.jewishcare.org.au/RH2023