* To find examples of situations today that match the categories that Maimonides outlines.
* To debate and discuss the 8 levels of tzedakah
Materials: * The attached source sheet.
* A facilitator’s guide with questions (camp counselors should create one of these that work for the age group they are working with in advance of running the program)
Description of the program:
This source text is designed to provide the material for small-group discussions during Parsha time after an initial skit or presentation to introduce tzedakah as the theme for Parsha time, for Parsha Re’eh.
Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Tzedakah Moses Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, also called Rambam) was a physician, rabbi, and philosopher born in Spain in the 12 century. Maimonides is one of the most respected Jewish philosophers to date and his works are an important part of Jewish liturgy. Some of his works include the Commentary on the Mishna, Sefer Mitzvot (“The book of Commandments”), The Guide for the Perplexed, Teshuvot, and probably the most important of his works, The Mishneh Torah, which is a code of Jewish law. In the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides complied a list of different levels of tzedakah that outlines the degree of how charitable the act is. It goes as follows from lowest to highest degree.
Giving begrudgingly – The person giving the charity unwillingly and cruelly. They do not care about their fellow man, by giving begrudgingly the recipient feels worse then they did before they received the charity. This is the lowest rung of charity because the giver is not doing it out of the kindness only out of obligation. True tzedakah is given with a warm heart.
Giving less than you can afford, but giving it cheerfully – This is slightly higher on Maimonides’ ladder because they are giving it with a smile. By showing understanding and empathy you make the recipient feel better than if you gave them the charity negatively.
Giving after being asked – You are giving the amount that you can afford to the recipient but they had to ask before you were willing to give them what they needed.
Giving before being asked – Asking for help is often of the most difficult things people do even when they are in dire need. By giving charity without being asked you show that you understand their situation and do not to be asked for the help needed.
Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows your identity – In the four lowest levels of tzedakah both the recipient and giver know each other. This creates a situation where the giver is superior to the recipient, the giver’s ego is stoked and the recipient feels ashamed and inferior. When the recipient does not know the identity of the recipient they are humbled, however the recipient does not receive the burden of knowing who the donor was and their feelings are not sparred.
Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient doesn't know your identity – This level of tzedakah is higher because the ego of the person giving charity is still being inflated by the recipient’s dignity is sparred for the most part.
Giving when neither party knows the other's identity – This is the second highest level of tzedakah. When both the recipient and donor of charity do not know each other. This does not create a superior – inferior bond between the giver and recipient but rather one of mutual understanding and respect.
Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant – This can be done by aiding someone in getting a job or set up a business with them. This is the highest level of charity because it allows for the recipient to no longer require charity from others, and makes them able to give it, which is the greatest gift one can give. If you give a man a fish he will be fed for a day, if you teach the man how to fish he will be fed for life.