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January/February 2019 - Message from the Rabbi


Much of what we do at TABI falls under the category of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. Tzedakah is certainly something that falls into this grouping. Tzedakah comes from the Hebrew word “Tzadik” which means righteous. We often think of Tzedakah as meaning “Charity,” but it really means much more.

Charity is an important component of Tzedakah, however, and it should not be minimized. What many in our TABI community may not be aware of is that “Charity” is something not only needed by social service agencies in our town and national organizations who help those in need. Charity is needed within our own TABI families. It is often uncomfortable for individuals to ask or receive help from those they know – so I turn to the Jewish concept of Charity/Tzedakah that was developed by Moses Maimonides.

Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), was a great Jewish scholar and teacher, prepared what has come to be known as the “Ladder of Tzedakah.” Two main concepts help to determine which levels of Tzedakah are the highest:

1. Maimonides ladder includes seven levels of giving and one level of doing Tzedakah. Doing Tzedakah is the highest form.
2. The ladder places kinds of Tzedakah that are given with Kavod (honor and dignity) as higher than those that do not, or those that lead to Bushah (shame and embarrassment.)

The highest levels of “giving” on Maimonides’ ladder are:

1. When the giver does not know the receiver and the receiver does not know the giver
2. Helping a needy person become self-sufficient by giving them a job or teaching them a skill.

I am starting a new giving initiative at TABI for our TABI members who may be in need or find themselves in a difficult financial place at the moment – an initiative that tries to operate according to Maimonides ladder of giving.

The program is simply called “Give One Take One.” Outside of my office there will be two envelopes; one says “Gas Cards” and the other says “Grocery Cards.” Inside the “Gas Cards” envelope are Marathon Gas Cards in $10.00 denominations. Inside the “Grocery Cards” envelope are Schnucks Cards in $20.00 denominations. I have started this program with funds from my Discretionary Fund. Rather than writing checks to individuals for food and gas – which is “lower level” giving on Maimonides ladder (since people need to come and specifically ask for these funds) my hope is to operate this aspect of giving on a higher level and encourage more anonymity.

If any TABI member finds themselves in need, my hope is that they can simply walk down the hall, find the envelopes and simply take what they need – no questions, no need to “ask for help” and hopefully no shame or embarrassment. At the same time, any TABI member wishing to participate in the program is free to “add to the envelopes” and donate both gas and food gift cards. Again, these are “anonymous” donations and “anonymous” gifts for those in need.

I have long found that many who are in need at some point in their life and receive Tzedakah are often the first to contribute at other points in life when they have all they need. If you would like to “Give” in a different way – you now have one more opportunity for giving at your disposal. If you are in need, you now have another opportunity to receive that hopefully won’t cause any embarrassment or shame.


Gary A. Mazo, Rabbi