Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sweet Tzedakah

"We live in a moral universe after all. What's right matters. What's wrong matters. You may keep things hidden, but they don't disappear into the ether. They impregnate the atmosphere." - Archbishop Desmond Tutu


"Tzedakah" is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call "charity" in English. However, tzedakah as a word is very different from the Christian word for charity. The word in Hebrew is derived from the root meaning justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is an act of justice, the performance of a holy duty.

Some sages have said that the obligation of tzedakah is the highest of all commandments, equal to all of them combined, and that a person who does not perform tzedakah is equivalent to an idol worshipper.

In the Bible, I Corinthians 13 holds the most elaborate and familiar Christian texts on "love". However the word "love" in other translations is translated as "charity".

The word that translators struggle with is "agape" -- calling it either "love" or "charity". The English word "charity" has these origins: Middle English charite, from Old French charité, from Late Latin caritat-, from Latin, dearness, from carus dear All this points to a subtle distinction between the two world religions - for Christians, charity is an act of love. Love (and consequently charity) is not necessarily an act of justice.

Both traditions are high-minded, honorable. Both seek to honor God. And each has something to learn from the other's worldview.

As a Christian I really admire how, in Judaism, charity is not an "option" -- it is an action required to maintain a just balance in the world, a way of repairing injustice.


Blogger P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Very interesting and appropriate to some thinking I've been doing.

It seems to me that Jesus thought we would do "charity" as an act of justice, unto the least of these...as unto him, if we are followers.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Maggie Rose said...

of faith, hope, and charity...the greatest of these is charity

a very good comparison of these two faiths understanding of charity and justice, mata

Maggie Rose

6:11 AM  
Blogger The Harbour of Ourselves said...

i concur, i was very challeged and moved by muslims whilst in Africa - alms to the poor was never an option, something we so called christians would dop well to remember

good blog

4:46 AM  

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