The Benefits of Doing Tikkun Olam with Money, Personal Effort, or a Combination of Both


Rabbi Yehoshua, a First Century sage and teacher of the great Rabbi Akiva, made the following somewhat astonishing statement:

It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua:

The poor person [standing at the door] does more for the householder than the householder does for the poor person. (Leviticus Rabba [Margoliot Edition] 34:8)

It would seem natural to link this directly to a verse in Proverbs:

A Chessed-person benefits himself or herself. (Proverbs 11:17)


In my talks, I often ask the audience or students, “How do you feel when you are doing Mitzvahs?” Almost always the answer is, “I feel good”, and very often that is where it stalls. We rarely get beyond that. So, in an effort to explore more deeply the emotional and psychological feelings of Mitzvah-doing, I assembled whatever came to mind, and then ask a number of friends to supplement what I had written. These are the results (to date):

1. You feel good, of course — as a result of the Mitzvah, of course, not the reason for doing it

1A. Feel happy

i. Try to articulate how this good feeling is different from moments of success like getting a dream job, buying a super personal computer, etc.

ii. It’s all right to feel good about doing Mitzvahs

iii. It’s not just an “ego-trip” or high if done right, i.e., totally done for the benefit of others

iv. Even if you do it only for your own spiritual or emotional “high”,

a. That’s still all right because

b. The beneficiary still benefits and

c. That’s what a Mitzvah is – the act that benefits others.

d. Furthermore, the Talmud (Pesachim 50b) states: “Even if the Mitzvah is not done for its own sake, the person doing the

Mitzvah may come to do it for its own sake.”

e. On Maimonides’ famous scale of the 8 levels of giving, the last one reads “The [eighth], still lower, degree is when the person gives to the poor person grudgingly/painfully/unhappily — It is still Tzedakah.

This is somewhat similar to the line, “What do you call a doctor who graduated at the bottom of his or her class?” “Doctor.”

1B. Feel grateful

1C. Feel blessed

1D. Feel fulfilled

1E. Feel whole

1F. Feel purposeful

1G. Feel soulful

1H. Feel competent

1I. Feel a sense of uplift, even sublimity

1J. At the same time, you may feel a sense of humility that you have been given this power to play a significant role in Tikkun Olam

1K. And a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings that are a part of your own life.

1L. Feel a sense of Shalom (peace, completeness, wholeness), and Shalva (peace-of-mind).

1M. You can actually touch other human souls

1N. Being engaged in front-line Mitzvahs, may open you to discovering society-wide and global Tikkun Olam problems and consequently working towards solutions through letter writing, social media, media, personal connections and influence, rallies, protests, signing petitions, joining and/or founding movements lobbying, and/or voting.

1O. Helps clarify a sense of Life’s priorities

1P. You just know you can make a real difference

1Q. This will possibly allow you, if necessary, to learn to be on the receiving end of Mitzvahs graciously

2. Proves that you can do something

2A. Proves that you can do something

2B. Proves that you can do something

3. You will have a healthy, solid self-image

3A. You learn more about yourself, and what you learn by being (besides through books) “in the thick of life”

3B. You know you are SOMEBODY

3C. You can be something/somebody bigger than yourself.

3D. When you are engaged in Tikkun Olam and Mitzvahs, YOU ARE REALLY YOUR BEST SELF!

3E. You may get to like yourself (more) — something particularly relevant for teen-agers who are developing their self-image

4. Get you to think about “other things” in Life

5. REWARDING – what are the rewards?

6. You have a sense of connection, and if you believe in the “butterfly effect” from high school science classes, then the connection you make through Tikkun Olam will connect to everything else in the world – for the Good.

6A. Pay close attention to the word “gomel”.

6B. One of its many connotations is recompense/ repay (not in a monetary sense).

6C. Being cognizant of the fact of how much others have done for us in our lifetimes, it only seems right that we should do the same for others.

7. Establishing a legacy and reputation

7A. You may be the pioneer of a group of caring, action-oriented Mitzvah individuals

7B. Or you may be welcomed into such an already-established caring community

7C. You really get to appreciate really good people

7D. You will no doubt seek out, associate with, and learn from Mitzvah heroes, The Greats of Tikkun Olam

8. You become educated about and possibly enamored of the reality of “paying it forward”, i.e. your response to a Mitzvah done for your benefit by doing for others may very well start a chain reaction of Mitzvahs, some of which may far exceed your own actions.

9. You may ask yourself, “How is all this relevant to you? How relevant is it?, i.e.,

How high are Mitzvahs/Tikkun Olam on my priority list?

About the Author
Danny Siegel is a well-known author, lecturer, and poet who has spoken in more than 500 North American Jewish communities on Tzedakah and Jewish values, besides reading from his own poetry. He is the author of 29 1/2 books on such topics as Mitzvah heroism practical and personalized Tzedakah, and Talmudic quotes about living the Jewish life well. Siegel has been referred to as "The World's Greatest Expert on Microphilanthropy", "The Pied Piper of Tzedakah", "A Pioneer Of Tzedakah", and "The Most Famous Unknown Jewish Poet in America."
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