Commentary by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
The next theme we picked was the notion of tzedaka, which is translated as charity, but as always more meaningfully understood as acts of righteousness, of a duty and obligation to the poor, to the weaker vessels of society. It is depicted as scale of equality, "tzedek tzedek tirdoff,"from the Bible, "righteousness righteousness shall you pursue." And the commentaries on that ask why is righteousness repeated. And they say, well, the first time that you give, you give out of obligation. This is the obligation to tithe, the obligation to support those who are poor. The second is the emotional, subjective feeling matter. And, so that tzedaka has next to it a tzedaka box, and this is encouraged in our congregation, as in many other congregations, that before the lighting of the candles on Shabbat, or on the festivals, one takes coins, and places them in the tzedaka box. At the end of a period of time it's then distributed. This act is very meaningful for children, but I must say for adults as well. I remember the tzedaka box on my parents' table best. It meant that this was a different meal. This was a meal in which I was concerned not only with feeding myself, but seeing to it that other people will be able to be fed.
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