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God upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt -(Deuteronomy10:19)
What is Tzedakah?
Very often tzedakah is translated as *charity*, but tzedakah is much more.
The literal meaning of the Hebrew word is righteousness or justice. For Jews, tzedakah is not merely a gesture of kindness, but an act of justice.
The Torah invokes our obligation to help the needy and the stranger.
Who is exempt from giving tzedakah?
No one is exempt. Even those who are dependent on tzedakah are still obligated to give.
HaRav Moses Maimonides (The Rambam) delineated eight levels of tzedakah,
In Ascending order....
1. One who gives unwillingly
2. One who gives cheerfully, but not enough.
3. One who gives enough, but not till he is asked.
4. One who gives before being asked, but directly to the poor person.
5.The poor person knows the identity of the giver, but the giver does not know to who he gives..
6.The giver knows the identity of the receiver, nor does the receiver know from whom he receives.
7.The giver does not know to whom he gives, nor does the poor person know from whom he receives.
8. The highest form of tzedakah is to strengthen the hand of the poor, by extending a loan, joining in partnership, or training the poor person out of poverty, to help the poor establish themselves.