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Giving Through Cultures – Jewish Lessons on Giving

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Jewish lessons on giving are very similar to our mission of making the world a happier, kinder place by giving every day. But we have found this in many cultures and religions. Where we may think there are more differences in cultures, we have found that giving norms actually show we have more similar cultural traits than differences. We love giving, and love to dig into the history of giving. Kindness, giving, charity, generosity are not new concepts. When you dig into the history of giving you will find that it is a foundation in many cultures. But we forget some days. Or people assume we know this history and assume that you will continue the traditions of giving without a bit of guidance and a reminder that we are more similar than different.

Some days are hard. The last 10 months have been very hard. When we are finding it hard to get through the day it is a challenge to remember to give. But these are the days we need to give even more. Cultural and religious teachings remind us that the hard days are the days we need to act on basic principles of giving, kindness and compassion.

Charity and Justice in Judaism – Tzedaka

The hebrew word for charity also means justice and fairness – tzedaka. It also means ‘being human’. Jewish law states 10% of your net earnings shall go to the poor and vulnerable. This is to ensure that people have an active and organized compassion for others. There is a set intention to give to others. This law also states that your charity is not just one, large donation, but charity is to be spread out as small donations throughout the year.

Charity Does Not Have To Be Just Money

10% of your net income, no matter what the amount is, is part of your charity, but charity and generosity comes in three forms; giving of one’s wealth, giving of oneself physically, and giving of one’s wisdom. This translates into financial donations, volunteerism, helping others, and donating your expertise to those who need it. If you are a lawyer, you can donate legal advice to those who can not afford it. If you are a construction worker, help your elderly neighbour with a job around the house. The choices are endless, and it is up to you to decide how you will share your abilities, money and knowledge with those in need and are the most vulnerable in our communities.

Kindness is the Essence of Human Beings

Kindness plays a large role in Judaism. The hebrew word adivit means to perform kindness so you will get to the essence of kindness, the permanent state of kindness. Judaism wants charitable acts to build relationships with those you help and give to. At 365give we talk about random small acts of giving to people you don’t know. Judaic principles go one step further, build a relationship with the organization or person you are giving to. This relationship is key to kindness. This means if you choose a charity to give to, continue to give to them over and over again. Volunteer at their organization, become a Board member. If you give to an elder person in your community, don’t just drop off food once, repeat your action of kindness again and again to the same person so you build a relationship.

The Jewish Federation of Washington suggested these daily acts of giving and kindness in a 2019 article published on their website:

  • Sincerely compliment someone each day.
  • Be compassionate for a person’s situation and give them a pass if they seem rude.
  • Hide notes of encouragement in your spouse’s or children’s lunch boxes.
  • At dinner, talk about kindness with your family and friends. Ask, “What kind act did you do today? What kind act did someone do for you?”
  • Forgive someone who has wronged you; ask for forgiveness from someone you may have hurt.
  • Volunteer to be of service but get to know the challenges faced by those you help and help them in a way that preserves their dignity.

There are more traditions within the Jewish Culture that promote kindness, forgiveness, compassion and empathy on a daily basis. Can you think of other ways this culture gives? Write in the comments below your thoughts on cultural norms familiar to you. We loved these Jewish lessons on giving and will be bring you more cultural ideas in other blog posts. Giving is not new, we just all need a reminder of the lessons on giving every day.

Sign up for a free membership at 365give to start a habit of giving every day. It will make you happier, will show others the benefits of giving, and make our world a happier place, one give at a time.


Jacqueline Way
Jacqueline Way
My dream is to inspire people around the world – young and old – to make a better, happier world for everyone. As a family we have come to learn through our own daily giving practice that if we all do one small thing to give every day – together we will be the change the world needs.

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