Tzedakah box

Tzedakah boxes are small repositories that hold money for charity. Since donating is a significant element of Judaism, these charity boxes play a vital part in the religious life of Jewish people.  

Why the Tzedakah Box Is an Important Part of Jewish Religious Life

A tzedakah box is very similar to a piggy bank. It is a traditional box, decorated in unique and personalized designs, that holds money. Instead of saving money for particular items or desired material things, Jews use tzedakah boxes to keep the money for donations. Usually, they continue adding money into the box on the sabbath and donate it on religious holidays. There are many holy days on the Jewish calendar that stress the importance of giving. Keep reading to learn more about when Jews use tzedakah box money and how the boxes teach the importance of giving.

In this article, you can come across information about:

  • * Basic information about tzedakah boxes
  • * The history charity in Judaism
  • * The history if the tzedakah box
  • * Holidays that require donations
  • * Making a tzedakah box

Basic Information about Tzedakah Boxes

The word “tzedakah” is commonly translated as “charity.” It comes from the root “tzedek,” which means “justice.”

Jewish families have tzedakah boxes dedicated to saving money for charity. In Judaism, giving to charity is a fundamental value. No matter your social or economic status, there is a strong push for Jews to donate.

Tzedakah boxes help Jews set aside money for religious holidays and events that require donations to charity. So, people have tzedakah boxes, and the tradition is to add money every Shabbat- the Jewish sabbath that takes place on Saturdays. Having this container is a great way to teach children about saving money and using it for selfless reasons. It is also fun to personalize your tzedakah box with fun designs and decorations.

The History of Charity in Judaism

One of the significant values that Judaism bases itself on is charity. In the Torah- the ancient text containing fundamental Jewish law and practices- Jews must consistently give to charity. There is even a tradition within Judaism that says Jews must give ten percent of their income to charity. More devout Jews traditionally can give twenty percent. This tradition of donating and giving to charity is so ancient that it began with Abraham- the patriarch of Judaism.

The value of charity is so essential in Judaism that Jews must give a beggar a donation if they happen to come across one. It was also a tradition for communities to have specific groups dedicated to collecting money for different charitable causes.

There is some paradox to the Jewish requirement of charity. Giving to charity should be done out of honest generosity, not because it is an obligation. Jewish law should act as an initiative to do good so that people naturally want to give to others. Thus, Jews become conditioned to give to others.

The History of the Tzedakah Box

The use of tzedakah boxes stems back to biblical times. Although not as old as the Jewish virtue of charity, the idea of collecting money for donations began when the First Temple in Jerusalem experienced deterioration. They constructed this holy place of worship around 1000 B.C.E., and when the High Priest noticed it needed repairs, he placed a box with a hole on the top near the altar dedicated to donations.

Individualized money boxes for charity began towards the end of the 18th century. It was during this period that a large group of strict orthodox Jews- part of the sect known as Hassidic Judaism- moved to Israel. Families that did not move vowed to send money to their families that did move to Israel.

A prominent rabbi from the migrated group decided to set up a system that efficiently organized and transferred money between the families.

This rabbi’s son went along and developed the individual charity boxes for placement in a family’s home. With this, Jewish families had a dedicated spot to put their money for any charity. Shortly after, the tradition of having a tzedakah box was widespread.

Holidays That Require Donations

Since one of the foundational elements of Judaism is giving to charity, it makes sense that there are many Jewish holidays with the component of donation. The Jewish custom is to place money into the tzedakah box every week on the sabbath. Then, on holidays, Jews can donate the money saved.

One of the most significant holidays with a requirement of giving is Purim. It commemorates a miracle that occurred in biblical times. Therefore, it celebrates the triumphs of Judaism and the prevalence of faithfulness. To observe the joyous holiday, Jews read the story of Purim and send gifts of food. It is also imperative to donate money on this special holiday. This is when money from the tzedakah becomes helpful.

Yom Kippur is also a holiday that emphasizes giving to charity. Yom Kippur, from Hebrew to English, means “Day of Atonement.” It is an extremely holy observance where Jews spend most of the day praying and asking for forgiveness. To prepare for this day, Jews give lots of money, usually more money than usual, to charity.

Most other major Jewish holidays are times when Jews traditionally give the money from their tzedakah boxes to charity. Celebrations like Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, and Sukkot are only a few of the special days when people give away their tzedakah box money.

Making a Tzedakah Box

It is so easy and so fun to make a tzedakah box. You can use any material that can easily hold money. There are even specialty kits that you can buy to construct a pre-made box.

The essential elements of tzedakah boxes consist of a container-like object with a lid and a slot on the top to easily slip in money. It also should have the ability to open. Tzedakah boxes are unique in that you can personalize them in any way. You can get creative with your materials, and you can add fun decorations that fit your style. There is also the option to purchase pre-made boxes.

No matter your style, tzedakah boxes are a symbol for one of the foundational elements of Judaism: giving to charity. With a long history, these boxes help prepare Jews for the next religious holiday.

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