Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tzedakah and Supersition--Elul 23

To make teshuvah, to turn to the One, in part is to become whole, to integrate ourselves as the image of the One.  One goal in this is to bring our inner lives in harmony with our outer actions. This is why we can never be satisifed with sounding the shofar; we must hear the shofar and let it wake up our hearts.  This is also why we can never be satisfied with giving tzedakah in any cursory or calculating way.  Giving tzedakah during the Days of Awe does not pay our debt of sins or bribe the Judge to look the other way or lessen our sentence.  How ridiculous! we might say.  Who thinks that?  Yet we sometimes act as if this were true--as if giving tzedakah in multiples of 18 will ensure a good year.  Yes, pray U'netaneh Tokef, acknowledging it is God who decides who will live and who will die, who and who will suffer in the coming year, but--just to make sure--give tzedakah.  This is superstition and it is incompatible with monotheism.

When we give tzedakah, just as when we perform any mitzvah or act of chesed, we are to act without hope or thought of reward, in this world or the world to come.  We give tzedakah, we "do justice," because this is how those called to walk humbly with God live.  Giving freely means giving generously; it also means giving up all expectation of recognition, reward, or benefit. 

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