God says in Parashay Vayera (Genesis 18:19), “כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו, לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו, וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט – Because I know Abraham will command his children to follow in his way, and preserve the way of God, to be just and do the right thing.” Generally the word צְדָקָה – tzedakah is translated as charity, which people take to mean as something nice that we do that is above and beyond our normal responsibility. However, this isn’t the case. The word צְדָקָה comes from the root word צדק meaning ‘justice’. The true meaning of the word צְדָקָה is doing the right and just thing, the thing that is supposed to be done, not the above and beyond thing to do. So, when we talk about charity it isn’t something that is supposed to be done only if we have the means, time or ability, it is something that is a responsibility for all the “children of Abraham (all of us)”. It is our responsibility, our heritage, our legacy. Doing the right thing for the Jewish people is a matter of course.
So, what does that mean for us? It means no excuses. It means that just because you are a teenager and don’t have enough money to go the movies isn’t an excuse for not doing “charity”. This isn’t an optional thing we do if we are able, it is our Jewish responsibility to help other no matter what our situation is. In fact, our ancient Jewish sages teach us that even a person who receives charity, must give charity to the person who poorer than him.
But how? If you don’t have money to give then what should you do? This is another big misconception about charity. Money is not the only way to give charity. You have many other things that you can give and use to help people. Your skills, your time, your creativity, and so much more. Money isn’t the only thing in the world. You could volunteer, try to raise money, or use your skills to help someone out.
Today’s Jewish mission is to raise some money for charity, or find another way to help and give charity the Jewish way, not by giving only when it is convenient and not by only giving money, but by giving of yourself.