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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tzedakah Box

I am excited.  At the beginning of the school year, I plan to sell back a couple of textbooks that are obsolete to me (hopefully they're useful to someone, or the bookstore won't take them back), and then I will have some spending money.  I had planned to buy yet another kippah, but have decided instead to buy a tzedakah box.

Tzedakah is a difficult word to translate.  It is most often rendered "charity," but that doesn't quite do it, somehow.  Charity is something done purely voluntarily; tzedakah carries a sense of obligation.  I have also seen the word translated "justice" and "righteousness," but somehow those don't really quite get it, either.  A tzedakah box is a special place to save money to donate.  Up till now I have been using an old medicine box; hopefully that will soon change.

Tzedakah boxes come in all sizes, materials, and prices.  I bookmarked some as low as five or ten dollars because I really don't know how much money I'll have to spend.  The ones I bookmarked only went up to thirty dollars, for I know I won't have more than that to spend, but I saw some handmade works of art selling for several thousand dollars.  It's unclear to me what the point is of spending so much on a tzedakah box when you could be donating the same money to tzedakah, but I don't know; maybe that's just me.

I have also changed my plans about where to donate when the box is full.  Until yesterday, I thought I was going to make a donation to Reece's Rainbow, every time.  Now I have decided to change the organization to which I donate each time I donate, and I know where I am donating first.  I am very excited about it.

While Googling "tzedakah box" yesterday, I came across a girls' orphanage in Israel, Lev Lalev (Heart to Heart).  It is an Orthodox organization--I can tell by  how modestly the girls in the photos are dressed, and the fact that there is a separate fund set up for weddings (traditionally it is a HUGE Jewish value to help poor and disadvantaged brides have a wonderful wedding and a successful first home)--but.  But but but.  They also have a separate fund for the psychiatric and therapeutic needs of their girls with PTSD and other mental health needs.  Given my own health history, I cannot ignore this.  My first tzedakah boxful of money will go to the Lev Lalev mental health fund.

You might be wondering where I am getting all this money.  It is true that, as a college student, it is difficult to find money to give to others, but this became very important to me around the middle of last year, so I devised a clever system: every Friday evening, and on the eve of a holiday, I empty the change in my wallet--be it one cent or three dollars--into my tzedakah box.  When the box is full, I take it to the bank, deposit the money, and make a donation for that amount.

Giving tzedakah becomes especially important during the Aseret Y'mei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  After all, as we say in U'N'Taneh Tokef, "But repentance, prayer, and deeds of kindness can avert the severity of the decree."  The Hebrew word used for "deeds of kindness" is--you guessed it--tzedakah.  (I told you it was hard to translate!)

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!