Tzedakah isn't just charity; it's a pathway to God ... more than just giving, it is spiritual alignment. * On Tanya for 12 Menachem Av.
In the Jewish tradition, the act of giving, known as Tzedakah, is not a mere act of charity but a transformative journey, guiding our innermost essence towards the divine. This teaching finds its roots in the wisdom of Tanya, a central text of Chabad philosophy, which provides a compelling interpretation of Tzedakah that reframes our understanding of this act.
The term Tzedakah is derived from the Hebrew word "Tzedek," which means "justice" or "righteousness." Unlike the common English understanding of "charity," Tzedakah in the Jewish tradition carries a profound sense of moral obligation, implying that the act of giving also confers a spiritual benefit to the giver.
The phrase, "Righteousness (or charity) shall go (yehaleich) before Him (lefanav)," is understood based on the inner meaning of the Hebrew words 'lefanav' and 'yehaleich'. 'Lefanav,' comes from the same root as 'pnimiyut', meaning "inwardness," which suggests the inner essence or core. 'Yehaleich,' is derived from 'holachah', translating to "guiding or directing." Tzedakah is more than just giving; it guides our inner essence, our hearts, towards God.
In Jewish philosophy, the heart is more than a physical organ—it symbolizes understanding and is the source of virtuous deeds (Deuteronomy 6:6). Thus, Tzedakah acts as a catalyst for spiritual transformation, altering our understanding of the world to align with divine principles.
This unique interpretation resonates with Jewish teachings that regard Tzedakah as a 'mitzvah,' a term meaning a "commandment" or a "good deed." The Mishna, in Peah 1:1, elaborates on the dividends of such a mitzvah, stating, "These are the things for which a person enjoys the dividends in this world while the principal remains for the person to enjoy in the world to come...". This not only emphasizes the spiritual value of Tzedakah but also reinforces its transcendence from an act of charity to a spiritual practice with implications in both our current lives and the afterlife.
This idea echoes in the Book of Psalms, specifically, Psalms 37:3-4, which states, "Trust in the Lord, and do good... Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Here, acts of good, such as Tzedakah, are linked to attaining a state of divine presence, where one delights in the Lord and trusts in His faithfulness. This is not a physical state but a spiritual alignment, fulfilled through the practice of Tzedakah.
In Jewish thought, Tzedakah even extends to creating 'peace.' Acts of charity and kindness are seen as establishing harmony and alignment with the divine will, moving beyond just helping those in need.
Therefore, the act of Tzedakah, as understood in Jewish philosophy, is a transformative journey that brings us closer to the divine. It's a practice that resonates deeper than charity, aligning our hearts with God, influencing our perceptions, and our relationship with Him. This perspective fundamentally shifts our understanding of giving, revealing a profound depth that reaches beyond societal roles. Through Tzedakah, we find a pathway to the divine, engaging in the creation of peace, and aligning our desires with those of God.