"If there will be a destitute person… in the land that God is giving you must not harden your heart or shut your hand… rather you must repeatedly open your hand to him" Deuteronomy 15: 7-8


The commandment to give charity, tzedakah, nestles at the heart of the many divine commands given by God to the Jews immediately prior to entering the land of Israel.

Parashat Re'eh foregrounds the important idea that the Judaic hallmark of a just society is the constant obligation to care for the poor. The notion of charity-as-justice is a principle to which we are legally bound in Jewish law and it is misunderstood if construed only as compassionate caring or impulsive giving.

Despite the great significance of the mitzvah of tzedakah, it is intended neither to be limitless nor to become intolerable for the individual. Justice must work for both giver and receiver.

To this end, the Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, sets out three percentage categories depending on one's level of net income - one fifth, one tenth, or less than one tenth.

To avoid the giver becoming impoverished the rabbis ruled that as the upper limit, takanat ushah, nobody should give more than one fifth of their net income.

The broader idea of tzedakah is that we are inseparably linked with our fellow human beings and they with us. This is because unless worshipping God leads us outward towards doing good deeds, and the good we do both individually and collectively leads us back to God to replenish our spiritual relationship, the creative dynamism between faith and morality will be depleted.

The God-given mitzvah of tzedakah provides us with the impetus for social action both within the Jewish community and beyond.

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