Lesson Planning


Related Kits:
Tzedakah Box Kit

Tzedakah and the Tzedakah Box
The “tzedakah box” has for centuries been a fixture in home, school and synagogue, as a means of collecting small contributions of money. It has received the attention of artisans in every generation, whether in wood, metal, ceramics, or other materials, often exhibiting motifs of common Jewish symbols and references to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), and often taking the form of a synagogue building, (as does our model) to reinforce the concept of giving to the community.

Few topics in Judaism have received greater attention than tzedakah, and few if any are more essential to Jewish culture. Literally meaning “righteousness”, the English “charity” has always been regarded as a poor translation.

“Love your neighbor as yourself—that is the whole of Torah; the rest is commentary…” said Hillel two thousand years ago, and that is the essence of tzedakah. Righteousness—caring for the unfortunate, lending assistance wherever needed, making certain that human needs are not ignored, is not viewed as a quality of exceeding goodness, or generosity above and beyond the requirements of good citizenship and living within the law. Rather, it is a basic requirement of every member of society, codified within the law. Tzedakah is done, practiced, lived, not given.

While the collection of funds for distribution to needful causes through community structures is only one way of doing tzedakah, and an indirect one at that, it is a basic and time–honored means of funding essential social and human needs. Though the individual donations collected by this means are generally small, their importance is magnified by the fact that they are personal, anonymous, and open to participation by all, regardless of ones means. And they provide a basic model to children for doing tzedakah.

Related Activities

1. Choose a special tzedakah project for the class to collect funds for.

2. Display newly-made tzedakah boxes, with information about a chosen cause. Ask the public to “vote” for their favorite box with their donations. One artist wins the honor, but the funds go toward tzedakah!

3. Write a story about an old Tzedakah box. Share stories in class, or make up and copy a booklet of them to distribute.

4. Visit a museum, synagogue, or Jewish bookstore that has a collection of antique tzedakah boxes. Compare styles of different artists or regions of origin.

5. Discuss different “levels” of tzedakah.

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