75 words for 75 years of Israel – Tzedakah/Charity

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.

Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

צְדָקָה

TZEDAKAH

TZEH-DAH-KAH

CHARITY

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

צדק צדק תרדף למען תחיה וירשת את הארץ אשר יהוה אלהיך נתן לך.

“Zion shall be redeemed through judgment; her returnees, through justice.” (Isaiah 1:27)

ציון במשפט תפדה ושביה בצדקה.

Tzedakah, Hebrew for “charity,” is based on the grammatical root tzedek, meaning “justice.” Superficially, “justice” and “charity” appear to be unrelated, but in Biblical thought they are intertwined. Giving charity is not merely a good deed; it is a Biblical obligation that we are obligated to fulfill whether or not we feel the desire to give. Justice obligates us to give a specified percentage of our income to the needy. In a just society, we must ensure that all people have the means to live a happy and productive life.

Similarly, a tzaddik, a “righteous person,” is one who constantly strives to bring justice to the world. Many holy tzaddikim, righteous people, are particularly dedicated to giving tzedakah, distributing most, if not all, of their money to the poor.

The Bible highlights the importance of justice by repeating the word in the verse, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). By specifically instructing us to pursue justice, the Bible teaches us that we must not be passive, for justice is neither natural nor easily accomplished. Justice will only be achieved through our continuous commitment and focused efforts.

One of God’s seven Noahide laws for all of humanity requires the establishment of courts of justice. The Bible outlines specific laws regarding witnesses, testimony and the ways judges must preside over court cases, reflecting the critical importance of fair trials to a civilized society. While great efforts are made to achieve justice in all cases, human justice remains imperfect in comparison to the ultimate justice carried out by God, who sees all and “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalms 44:22).

The Israel Bible Team

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