The Hebrew month of Ellul is a time of spiritual preparation for the High Holidays. We all want to be blessed with a good sweet new year, and our tradition teaches us that teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka - repentance, prayer and charity are the keys to unlocking the blessings that we hope and yearn for. This month we all increase our charitable giving, both as a plea for our prayers to be answered, and because we want poor families to have the means to celebrate the upcoming holidays.
With tzedaka on our minds we asked some of our friends and supporters what inspires them to give. You may be surprised by some of their answers...
"I have the choice every day to become more generous or more selfish. I chose generosity. A day that has in it an act of giving is a day that has intrinsic worth and blessing."
2. "When I spend a dollar on myself the pleasure passes quickly. When I spend a dollar on someone in need, the pleasure of giving lasts so much longer."
3. " I am always amazed when I see that modern science is finding that what the Torah teaches us is true. Since I was a teenager and started earning money by babysitting I have been giving a portion of my earnings to tzedaka. Recently I saw this TED talk by Michael Norton where he shows all sorts of proof of how charity really can buy happiness. It just adds to my satisfaction that all of the money that I gave over the years was well spent!"
"Giving tzedaka is a good business investment. When I share my income with those in need I see that I am blessed with more and more money. Giving Tzedaka is a way of showing G-d that I am worth investing in financially."
"Thank G-d I am relatively well off. I have set up savings accounts for each of my children. When I give tzedaka and encourage others to give, I am creating a spiritual savings account for each of my children as well. I am confident of that because it is written in the Aruch HaShulchan (247:5) "I have received the kabalah (tradition) that when one collects money for others, it will protect his future generations that they will never need to go around, door to door, collecting for themselves."
6. " I believe that everything that I receive in life is a gift, and gifts are meant to be shared."
7. " From when I was a small child my mother taught me to share. Now that I am a doctor I still listen to my mother :-) but I also make research based decisions. The research is clear. People who give charity are happier, healthier, less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, depression and all kinds of other ailments."
"In our modern world our hearts have become so calloused. We hear of endless tragedies that we can do nothing about. It’s easy to become apathetic. By giving tzedaka to causes that I believe in I am able to keep my heart alive and hopeful for a better tomorrow. I may not be able to do anything about most of the news that I hear and see, but I hold on to hope knowing that my contributions have transformed a number of people’s lives."
8. "When I was a child I would often say, “It’s not FAIR!” My mother would joke that I would make a great lawyer. Now that I am a partner in my firm I still have a strong desire to make the world a more fair and just place, but I see how complex life can be. Tzedaka is often translated as charity, but it literally means ‘Justice’. When I give tzedaka to a good cause I know that I am doing what a can to make the world a more just and fair place to live."
"We are taught that our job in this world is make ourselves similar to HaShem. Being merciful and giving to others is a big part of living a Divine oriented life."
"What can I say, my mother did a great job in the 'Jewish Guilt' department. It's hard for me to enjoy the blessings in my life when I know that there are so many people out there that are lacking. Giving helps me feel better about enjoying my own blessings.
"I know what it’s like to be hungry. I grew up as the son of a single mother in northern Minnesota. Our home was so cold and drafty that I would sometimes wake up with snow in my bed. Fifty years later I still remember the aching feeling of hunger that has lasted way too long. If I can help even one child not suffer from hunger the way I did, my life is worth something."
11. "When my family visited Israel last summer we brought some new children’s outfits and toys to give to the poor. Milka from Yad Eliezer took us to a home where we witnessed poverty like I had never seen before. The children had never had new clothing or toys; everything had always been second hand. I didn’t know that there were families in Israel living in that kind of squalor. On the way back my teenage kids said that the visit to that home was one of the most impactful parts of their visit."
"I believe that the way that we treat others impacts the way that G-d and others treat us. The generosity that goes around comes around!"
"When I go to the gym to lift I am constantly pushing myself to go to the next step, add another pound to the weights, to break my previous records. In my spiritual affairs I also push myself to constantly grow and become a better person. Pushing myself to give more and more Tzedaka is one of the ways that I grow and strengthen my faith and ‘spiritual muscles’!"
"As a parent I think a lot about how I can raise my children with proper values. When I was young, making sacrifices and choosing long term satisfaction over short term pleasure was a natural part of our lives. Now it seems that the culture, particularly the youth culture is so focused on immediate gratification. One of the ways that my wife and I have found to share our priorities is by involving our children in our tzedaka activities. We brought them along to volunteer at Yad Eliezer’s warehouse packing boxes of food for poor families, and each year for the holidays we give them a special tzedaka budget. They need to do the research themselves and make decisions about how to distribute their funds. When my oldest decided to add some of his allowance money to his ‘tzedaka budget’ so that he could help pay for a bar mitzvah for a poor boy in Israel, my wife and I knew that we were doing something right!"
15. " The reason that I give charity is very simple. People are hungry. Lots of them. And I can do something about it. So I do."
Why do you give? Please share your reasons in the comments below. We want to hear from you!