Tzedakah in Judaism Is Not About Giving Charity But Doing What is Righteous for Your Community
Going by standard, popular, modern American philosophy, the rich need to help out the poor. It is not something the fabled “1%” should do, but something they have to do. It is incumbent upon them to go into their bottomless coffers and take out a prescribed amount of money simply to realign America in a manner others deem worthy. For most of the voting public, this is apparently as things should be. For an ever decreasing minority percentage of the voting public, it reeks too much of socialism and should be avoided. The issue is, what if the voter does not agree with what the government is doing with the money? What if the government is wasting it, or worse, using it for things the voter deems a sin? In this scenario, giving money to the government can be a sin. So what to do? How to wrest back power from the government? For Jewish voters, the answer is Tzedakah.
The most common translation of Tzedakah for American Jews is giving “charity.” But that is not really what Tzedakah is about. Tzedakah is about righteousness; doing what is just and righteous by those in your community. And the word “community” is the pivotal part of that sentiment. When you “give” Tzedakah you are giving money to help out your community. You know that wherever this money goes, it will go to things you and your community deem worthwhile.
The same is not true when you “give” your money to the government. First off, you do not give your money to the government. You only let the government take what is yours because you are petrified of the government gun getting turned on you. But secondly, and most importantly for our purposes here, the government is so big and overarching that more times than not, the money will go to things you do not believe in.
For the religious among us, that could mean stuff like Planned Parenthood. For those on the left, that could be the police and military. Interestingly enough, no matter what “side” you are on, there is a chance the government is doing things with your money you deem unworthy.
Tzedakah is About Doing What is Righteous Without the Threat of Force
But if the government continues to do things with your money you deem unworthy, is Tzedakah really the answer? Yes. It is money kept within your community so you can see it in action and approve of where it goes, but it also takes power away from the government. We live in a day and age where taxes are an unfortunate fact of American life. But Tzedakah lets you take the power back into your own hands. When you donate money to your community, it is another dollar that does not go to the government, and it is also another dollar where you get to decide what to do with your money.
Leftists enjoy taxes and they hate charity. The statistics on this are clear. If your religion is leftism and socialism, you do not give to charities the way religious people do, “persons who attend religious services twice a month or more give over four times as much as persons who never attend services.” This includes both secular causes as well as their time (volunteering). If you are traditionally religious, you give. If you adhere to the religion of leftism and socialism, you only give when mandated by the government.
The reasoning is simple; if you abide by the dictate that government is both godlike and good, then you do not need to give to charities of your own accord. If the government–that which is good–thought they needed more of you and your income, it would demand that. But since it does not, you do not need to give more. It is yet another reason why the notion of Tzedakah is antithetical to the practice and belief of socialism; practicing Tzedakah is a personal choice and personal decision. Tzedakah, ironically because it is about giving back to the community, is an individual action.
Why Tzedakah is Antithetical to Socialism
Tzedakah is such a tenet of Judaism because it is all about free will. Yes, it is a commandment to practice Tzedakah, but it is not an act of chased (kindness), but rather righteousness. You do not engage in righteousness when you are forced to do something. No, you are only acting in a righteous manner when you are the one making the decision. You are only acting righteously when you are putting in the work to act in such a manner.
That is why Tzedakah is everything socialism is not. It is an affront to the entire concept of socialism even though many American Jews think of the practice in the modern American sense of “giving to charity,” and “giving to the poor.” It is why it is important to make the distinction that Tzedakah is not giving to charity, but rather it is the action of a righteous person (a Tzedek). The act of Tzedakah puts the onus on the person. The community cannot force somebody else to “give Tzedakah” otherwise it is not Tzedakah. It is a compulsion.
Compassion, Not Compulsion
And Tzedakah is supposed to be about compassion, not compulsion. It is a compassionate act that is deemed an act of righteousness by the Bible and G-d. You are doing justice to the world and your community when you engage in acts of Tzedakah. Therefore it is no wonder why Tzedakah is so important to Judaism and why socialism is so antithetical to Judaism and Tzedakah; there is no such thing as forced compassion in life, and everything is about free will in Judaism (unless you are the pharaoh).
You are either compassionate or not. Only you are responsible for all your acts of evil and your acts of righteousness. Even if you are faking it and do not feel like it, merely doing the act is compassionate. You are doing justice to the world by acting in a compassionate manner. And, since the first precondition to living in a decent society is to have both justice and compassion (Tzedek), then socialism, which compels action, is antithetical to the American way of life, the Jewish way of life, and most notably, Tzedakah.