Do the right thing
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Do the right thing

We are writing in praise of Rabbi Kenneth Stern’s erudite explanation of the word “tzedakah,” a word that is usually translated as charity in his d’var Torah Terumah 5771. Rabbi Stern explains that the word tzedakah has its root in the Hebrew word for justice and righteousness, so that tzedakah has the more exact meaning of doing the right or correct thing. He goes on to explain how the word is connected to one’s motivation for giving, and he relates it to the ancient Israelites’ sprinkling blood on their doorposts on the night of the exodus from Egypt as well as to the Rambam’s eight levels of giving. The bottom line, according to Rabbi Stern, is that you give regardless of your motivation. In these days of widespread belt-tightening, it is a reminder to all of us that giving tzedakah is the right thing to do and the Jewish thing to do. Of course, if you do it willingly, lovingly, and generously, so much the better.

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