Lazer Gurkow

Give 20-Chai In 20-18

Time to Give. . . Again?
I know why so many resent rabbis. We always have our hands out. Either to put ideas into your heads or to take money out of your pockets. Well, my latest idea will do both. Here is an idea for your head, and a destination for the money in your pocket.

(Remember the rabbi who told his congregation that he has good news and bad news? The good news: we have the money to fix the Shull’s roof. The bad news is: it is still in your pockets….)

New Year is a time for resolutions. We resolve to live healthier, to be more kind and generous, and to a host of all-important endeavors. Well here is one. As we enter 2018 let us remember that for Jews, eighteen is a denomination associated with Tzedakah, Chai to Life.

My suggestion is that this year, we each give a denomination of twenty times Chai on a daily, monthly or annual basis. This means you can either give 360 cents, nickels, quarters, dollars (In Canada, two-nies) ten dollar, hundred dollars, or any amount of your choice. You can do this every day, week, month or once for the year.

You can give it to your favorite charity, but of course as a rabbi I will make a suggestion and place yet another idea in your head. Try to give it to a charity that helps people in need, rather than just ideas that you like.

Make it Painless

New Years resolution have notoriously short shelf lives because they tend to be painful. My suggestion is that we make this resolution painless.

Establish an automatic withdrawal from your bank account or an automatic charge on your credit card. It can be any multiple of thirty-six, and you will hardly realize it moving out. Suppose you decide on thirty-six cents a day (I know I’ve reduced the original sum to a fraction, but hey, don’t confuse me with the facts… it’s the idea that counts). That is all of $10.80 in a Jewish month. That is a wonderful number because 1080 is mathematically complete (not to mention that when you remove the zeroes, you end up with Chai… again!). What’s more, it is hardly enough to make a dent in your monthly cash flow.

Of course, if you can do more, do more.

Think about the benefit to the charity. If we each give a multiple of twenty times Chai, how many more dollars would end up benefitting the poor?

Great Timing for Global Ideas

This is a good time for a charity campaign. If you live anywhere on Social Media, you were snowed over in the month of December with invitations to join charity or charidy End of Year campaigns. Everyone was asking, and hopefully everyone was giving. Well the fund raisers are exhausted today and are enjoying a well-deserved break. Yasher Koach to them for giving us yet another chance and excuse to give. But now, the field is clear for us to start a new campaign. There is no competition out there. So, let this be the start of a global Beginning of Year campaign and let it be a year long campaign. Only this will be a grass roots campaign initiated by the givers rather than the solicitors.

It is important that this contribution come on top of what we are already giving, or it is not a new initiative. Let us remember that what we give, comes not out of our pockets, but out of G-d’s. When we resolve to give more than we can afford, G-d opens new channels of earning capacity. May He broaden the channels that bring in money and may he reward us, as Tzedakah does, with so much – that our lips will wear out from crying “Enough”!!!

I know that a global idea requires a global reach, but it all begins with the idea. Let this be the idea and let Social Media be the medium that jumpstarts a global 20Chai Charity Campaign.


For those wondering about the significance of twenty, I draw your attention to the Talmudic dictum that although we must tithe from our annual income to charity, those who can afford should give up to twenty percent. This campaign is not about twenty percent, but twenty times Chai. Ten is a complete number. When we maximize our capacity to give, and then give twice as much, we open the door for G-d to reward us (at least) twice as much.

For those among us who require a Torah justification to take advantage of a number based on a non-Jewish calendar. I draw your attention to the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that everything is by Divine Providence, and that we take a lesson in how to serve G-d from everything we see. I further point out that many contemporary poskim ruled that New Years in this day and age has been disassociated from religion and can be marked by all.

I close with a story that is well known in the annals of Chabad. The Lubavitcher Rebbe once wished one of his secretaries a happy New Year. When the secretary was surprised, the Rebbe quoted Psalms 87, which reads, “G-d counts, by the script of nations.”

Happy Giving.

About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at
Related Topics
Related Posts