Every year in December my wife and I sit down with our daughter to give tzedakah together.
We started when she was just two years old, telling her in words that she would understand that we all need each other, and that we were blessed to be able to help others this year, and giving her some choices of who she’d like to give her tzedakah to.
The first year she chose a giraffe rescue group (her favorite animal at the time), last year she chose ocean clean-up. Each year she has a greater capacity to understand the structure of the world, to understand the ideas of justice and injustice, and feel her place in our collective responsibility to each other. In doing this practice we don’t want her to feel a sense of guilt or obligation, but rather a sense of her own personal power as an agent of positive change in the world.
More than any other Jewish value, I feel like tzedakah holds our Jewish world together. It is the blood that flows through the Jewish people, moving resources around and between us. It helps us find the space to follow our callings, and the security to try and fail and get back up again. For many Jews over the generations, it’s what has kept the roofs over our heads and the food on our plates. Tzedakah is what makes us a people, not just a religion.
I want my daughter to know that. To understand, deep in the cells of her being, that tzedakah is a pathway to joy. Tzedakah is the blood, the flow, the movement of sustenance and peace and power. This is true for the organizations we support at the end of every year, but also for the world.
Chag sameach! May this season bring you goodness, and may your goodness flow out of you like a river of light.