Is there another way to do Tzedaka other than giving money? Rabbanit Surale Rosen
Elul 5579 / September 2019Topic : Tzedaka .
I am single and made Aliya a year ago. Took me a while to find a job, B”H I did. I am usually careful to give more Tzedaka during the month of Elul but presently, I’m not able to. Is there any other way I can do Tzedaka?
First I must open with my deep appreciation of your question. It is heart-warming to see how on top of getting through the hurdles of adjusting to a new country, a new job and everything else, you are not willing to give up on thinking about others and preparing for the High Holidays.
The answer to your question is, yes. Definitely.
The pesukim in Vayikrah 25:35-36 stress and encourage helping someone before they get to a situation where they will have to ask for money:
לה וְכִי-יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ, וּמָטָה יָדוֹ עִמָּךְ–וְהֶחֱזַקְתָּ בּוֹ, גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב וָחַי עִמָּךְ. לו אַל-תִּקַּח מֵאִתּוֹ נֶשֶׁךְ וְתַרְבִּית, וְיָרֵאתָ מֵאֱלֹהֶיךָ; וְחֵי אָחִיךָ, עִמָּךְ.
35 “If your kinsman, being in straits, comes under your authority, and you hold him as though a resident alien, let him live by your side: 36 Do not exact from him advance or accrued interest, but fear your God. Let him live by your side as your kinsman.”
It is true that the pasuk is referring to lending money and the prohibition to take ריבית, interest, but the Rambam understands it as a general responsibility to support a fellow Jew and Jewess on the way to financial security.
Maimonides rates eight levels of Tzedakah. Surprisingly, what we automatically recognize as the most straight forward understanding of Charity, i.e: giving money to a poor person, is not at the top of the list. What Ramabam deems as the highest level of Tzedakah is helping a person to get out of their financial straits, and that does not necessarily involve giving them money:
There are eight levels of charity, one above the other.
The greatest level that has nothing above it is to strengthen the hand of a Jew who has become poor and give him a gift or loan or create a partnership with him or make up some work for him, so as to strengthen his hand until he does not [any longer] need to ask others [for help]. And about this it is said (Leviticus 25:35), “and you shall strengthen the hand of a stranger and a resident and he shall live with you;” meaning, strengthen him until he no [longer] falls and becomes needy” (Mishneh Torah, Gifts to the Poor 10:7)
As you can see, the importance of helping someone find a job, for example, is top most. So if you’re looking to invest in doing more for others, then offering your friends a hand in getting through the labyrinth of searching for a job, helping someone get through a job interview or helping them write their CV, are all ways of extending Tzedakah.
I wish you a smooth absorption in Israel and may Hashem grant you strength to help others! Ketivah Vachatimah Tova!