“On Rosh Hashannah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die…Repentance (Teshuva), T’filah (Prayer), and Righteousness (Tzedakah) avert the severe decree.” (Unetaneh Tokef prayer, High Holiday Machzor/prayer book)
We have less than three weeks until Rosh Hashanah, followed 10 days later by Yom Kippur. Three weeks! During this Hebrew month of Elul, we have been considering areas that we need to repair our inner spiritual lives and do the work of repentance, prayer, and righteousness.
This week, we will focus on tzedakah – righteousness – for our mitzvah. In English, the word we use is charity. Charity implies kindness and compassion. The wealthy open their wallets to the poor; a good deed. But tzedakah carries a different implication. Coming from the root word for righteous, it tells us that giving to the poor is an act of justice. In Judaism, we don’t give because of our open heart; we give because we are obligated to do so.
It is Jewish practice to give tzedakah during this time of Elul. The obligation to fulfill this mitzvah can be made in several ways: gifts to the poor, gifts to the temple, or gifts to educational institutions. Congregation Emeth has many opportunities for you to fulfill this mitzvah; I am happy to guide you. This is another good time to empty your tzedakah cans/pushkes and bring the coins to the temple before the onset of the Holy Days. High Holiday donations are often made in memory of a parent or loved one, and donating a new High Holiday Machzor in a loved one’s memory fulfills that purpose.
May you find spiritual enrichment through your High Holiday preparations, and may you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel