#BlogElul 28: Give

An important concept in all three great monotheistic religions is that of giving – the social contract to support those who have less material wealth than we do.

In Judaism and Islam, the word that is usually translated as “charity” is actually related to “justice” instead. We give not because it makes us feel good or because we are nice people, although those are good things that come along with it. We give because it is the right and just thing to do.

The Torah is particularly clear on this, instructing us many, many times to be hospitable to the stranger because we were strangers in Egypt. We are to support the widow, the orphaned and the itinerant priesthood because they are needy, end of story.

It is true that there are many benefits attached to giving. If you are a wealthy philanthropist endowing an institution, you may see your name on the wall as you drive down Portage Avenue. If you aren’t quite in that league, supporting worthy causes helps us feel less powerless in a chaotic world.

In the liturgy of the High Holy Days, we repeat the following more than once:

“ותשובה ותפלה וצדקה מעבירין את רוע הגזירה”
“Repentance, Prayer and Charity avert the severity of the decree”

That’s a pretty powerful statement. Can we avert the severity of whatever difficulties might lie ahead in the coming year, by doing these three things that make us better people?

I can’t answer the question, but I do know that giving makes us feel good. So why not do it?

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