Prepared by Amy Newman in collaboration with Avram Mandell
Sunday, October 26, 2014

11:30-12:30 Jewish Giving lesson

11:30 11:45

Build Me a Tower

Teens will be divided into groups of 6 or 7. They will all be given identical material. Ideally, it will consist of a roll of tape, a cardboard box, art supplies – or it can just be big legos.

They will then be told “As a team, using all of the materials, build a tower as tall and as strong as you can. You will have ten minutes. Go.”

At the end of ten minutes ask them: How did it go?

Talk about how they used what they had, how they got creative…

Ask them about if they experienced any challenges.

Then the kicker. . .tell them “I never said you couldn’t work together.

I said, “As a team, using all of the materials. . .”

How could the outcome have differed if:

  • you had worked together?
  • pooled your resources?
  • worked towards a common goal?

11:45 -11:55

Jewish Giving

You are in a unique position to make a large impact. It’s even more powerful when you pool your resources. Today I hope to give you some Jewish resources that will aid you in your decision making as you begin this program. But let’s start out with what you already know.

When I say “Jewish Giving” what does that mean to you? Take a moment and write down a few key words or phrases on post it notes and then come up to stick them on the wall.

Posting, Grouping and Sharing

Questions or things to ponder to aid in discussion (if needed) . . . .

1. Has anyone ever asked you for money?

2. If so, how did you feel?

3. Have you ever asked for money from your parents?

4. Are they obligated to give it to you? Why or why not?

5. What did you do for a B’nai Mitzvah project?

6. Was there anything about it that made it feel “Jewish” to you?

7. Do you still participate in any activities related to your B’nai Mitzvah project? Why did you continue?

8. What are other ways to do service?

9. What are other ways to “Give Jewishly?”

11:55 – 12:25

Origins of Tzedakah

Text Study

“And when there is a needy man amongst your brothers, within your gates, in your land, which the Lord your God is giving to you, you shall not harden your heart, nor avert your hand from your poor brother. But you shall surely lend him as much as he lacks, that which he has not. For the poor will never cease out of the land, which is why I command you, saying: You must open your hand to your brother, to your poor, and to the needy in your land.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8, 11

Read this in chevruta and answer the following questions:

1. Who ought to receive tzedakah? What principles guide us?

2. What are the categories of needy people described in this text?

3. Who is speaking in this text?

4. What charge is being given?

5. What word is repeated a lot in this text? What does it imply?

Discuss as a group insights or have each group share one “Ah-ha” moment

In preparation for this lesson I found four pages worth of quotes related to the topic of tzedakah. This word and mitzvah is so important in Judaism that there are so many texts in which it is mentioned. We could not begin to cover all of them today so I gave you this one that is the basic Torah commandment regarding Tzedakah. Just know this is such an important Jewish value that is well covered in our tradition.

Definitions of words related to Giving

Sometimes the origins of a word can teach us a lot. The English word which is closest to “tzedakah” is “justice,” but when we talk about giving money to help those who are in need, the words “Charity” and “philanthropy” are often used. See if you can find the difference in their meaning.


Tzedakah (Hebrew) = justice, righteousness

Charity (Latin) = caritas = love, fondness

Philanthropy (Greek) = philia = love + anthropos = people


Based on their root meanings, what is the difference between the Jewish mitzvah of giving Tzedakah and the practices of giving “charity” or “philanthropy?”

“We are obligated to be more careful to fulfill the commandment of tzedakah than any other commandment because it is the sign of the righteous person, the descendent of Abraham our forefather of whom God said: “I know him. . .he will command his children. . .to do tzedakah.”
(Genesis 18:19).

5 Differences between Charity and Tzedakah by Sasha Feldstein

1. The basis for Charity is love; For Tzedakah , it’s a mitzvah

2. Charity is a gift; Tzedakah is giving someone their due

3. Charity is voluntary: Tzedakah is compulsory

4. Not all charity is considered tzedakah

5. Charity will not necessarily produce sustainable change: tzedakah can.


Wrapping it Up

Jews are 2% of the population in the United States.

But a quick Google search of Forbes Magazines 2013 Top 50 Givers reveals that at least 18 of the top 50 philanthropists in the US are Jewish. That’s 36%. A huge percentage considering we are 2% of the entire US population.

WHY do you think this is so?

I’m not suggesting these givers are all religious, but I would like to suggest that giving Tzedakah is a deep intrinsic value embedded in the fabric of who we are as a people.

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