Rabbi Kenneth Brander on Tzedaka
During these weeks leading up to the High Holidays, we focus on repentance, assessing how we can improve our relationships with God and with the important people in our lives, concretizing those feelings through prayer, and acting upon our willingness to change through increased acts of tzedaka, or charity.
As we approach the tzedaka element of this season, it is essential to be mindful of halakha‘s approach to charity. Built into the halakhic system of charity is an obligation to help members our own community and people. Yet, we are also reminded in the laws of charity that we are not only responsible for other Jews, but also for all the members of our society who are in need. “Our Rabbis have taught: We support the non-Jewish poor along with the Jewish poor,” (Gittin 61a).
Maimonides reminds us that our responsibility to help non-Jews is not merely to deter anti-Semitism; acts of charity allow us to imitate God, by following the divine ways of peace and caring, serving as God’s junior partners in transforming this world. “Even regarding non-Jews, the rabbis commanded to visit their sick, to bury their dead along with the Jewish dead, and to support their poor as part of our support for the Jewish poor, for the sake of peace, as is stated, “God is good to all, and His mercy is on all his creations”; and it states, “Its ways are pleasant and all of its paths are peaceful.”(Laws of Kings 10:12). In so doing, may we merit, please God, to be blessed with a productive and healthy year for us all.
This is the third of three thoughts on Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka from Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of Ohr Torah Stone