Tzedakah (from the Hebrew root “Tzedek”) means justice or righteousness, and is a practice in the fundamental Jewish tradition that combines the act of charity with the pursuit of a more just world. As one of Judaism’s 613 commandments, tzedakah transcends mere philanthropy by integrating ethical, religious and social dimensions, with the goal of repairing the world (tikkun olam).
Originally the concept comes from the Holy Scriptures and imposes an obligation on believers to uphold justice and equity through acts of kindness. This commitment is not only financial, but includes any action that helps others and contributes to the balance of society.
In contemporary society, tzedakah is often expressed through financial support to those in need, but it also involves volunteering, offering skills or emotional support. This practice extends beyond the individual, influencing community social responsibilities and philanthropic strategies.
This is thus an act closely related to the concept of tikkun olam, which suggests that through philanthropy and social action, individuals can participate in “repairing the world.” It encourages support for organizations that perform direct services and help grassroots movements that aim for systemic change.
The practice of tzedakah has evolved with the concept of microphilanthropy, which brings together small donations from a large number of individuals, enabling more personal connections between donors and beneficiaries.This model enhances the focus and impact of donations and promotes new networks of cooperation for social good.The intersection of tzedakah, philanthropy and tikkun olam is captured by Yehudah Mirsky in his article “Tikkun Olam: Basic Questions and Policy Directions.”Mirsky writes:
“The rich tradition of tzedakah is a model of communal social responsibility in the absence of a strong welfare state; it also connects to the burgeoning area of Micro Philanthropy, which pools large numbers of small donations resulting in more direct interaction between donors and recipients, or “givers” and “doers,” higher resolution in the focus of giving and the creation of new networks of cooperation.”
- “Tzedakah: Charity,” Judaism 101, URL to Judaism 101’s Tzedakah page.
- Mirsky, Yehudah.”Tikkun Olam: Basic Questions and Policy Directions.” Journal of Jewish Communal Service