Tzedakah Boxes in Jewish History

What are Tzedakah Boxes?

Tzedakah Boxes are commonly translated as Charity Boxes. First of all, that is a Jewish tzedakah boxmistranslation, an understandable one but still incorrect. The root of the Hebrew word Tzedakah is Tzedek meaning Justice. Judaism views giving to those who are less fortunate than you as a form of justice, not an act of charity. Charity denotes a generous action done out of the kindness of one’s heart. Judaism demands more than that from a person- giving to others is a Jewish obligation. Indeed, it is believed that all of one’s possessions in this world are G-d’s and we are simply vessels through which they are channeled. Therefore “my” money is not mine at all- I am just holding on to it until I need to pass it on to where it needs to get to.

Where can one find the roots of the Tzedakah Box in Judaism?

In the time of the First Temple, the Temple was in a bad state and desperately needed repairs done to it so the High Priest made a hole in a cover of a box, placed it by the entrance to the Temple and people could place donations in the box.

Did Tzedakah Boxes feature in other public places throughout time?

Yes, Tzedakah Boxes were often affixed inside synagogues (Jewish Houses of Prayer) and the money collected would go to communal organizations. Additionally. Each Jewish community would have its own special groups who would collect and distribute funds as needed within the community.

Are there particular times for giving Tzedakah?

Judaism rules that one should give to any person who stretches out their hand to you. Many Jewish people have the custom to give something small every day in order to train themselves to be givers. It is mentioned in the Talmud that times that are especially appropriate for giving are before prayer or after prayer, before doing various commandments and before the start of Shabbat or Jewish festivals.

When did it become common practice to have a Tzedakah Box at home?

It was around the end of the eighteenth century when it became common practice to keep small Tzedakah Boxes in every home. During this time a large group of Hasidic Jews had gone to live in Israel and dedicated their time to learning Torah and praying. The Hasidic Jews who remained behind took it upon themselves to support them.

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