“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
What does the Torah say about giving?
Tzedakah comes from the word tzedek, which means justice. We as Jews then interpret that as giving of tzedakah is nothing more than us doing our part to build a just world. In fact, it’s so important, we value giving tzedakah over all other mitzvot. That’s heavy, and rightfully so. When you think about a persons’ existence, most of their effort will be put towards working and trying to earn money. This is because they are trying to sustain theirs and their families standard of living…or elevate it. So when someone works hard for what they have and then makes the decision to set aside a portion in order to give back, this is a tremendously honorable thing. Besides someone who would be prevented from sustaining their basic needs if they were to give tzedakah, every Jew is required to fulfill their part. It makes you think about what could be possible if everyone were willing to work towards a just world.
The Torah also makes a distinction between tzedakah and gemilut hasidim (acts of loving/kindness). It says that only Tzedakah can be done with money and if you’re donating services, giving emotional support, or giving away your time to a certain cause then that would be considered gemilut hasidim. Also, tzedakah can only be done for the less fortunate. Acts of loving/kindness can be done for everyone, even the most well-off person in the world.
This is the part that really spurs a headbanging question…
If time is our only non-renewable resource, why isn’t is considered more righteous to give?
I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know if the Torah knows the answer either. But it is worth really thinking about how worthy it is to donate your time. It’s not to say you should substitute that for giving tzedakah, but I believe it’s important to get even more involved than simply writing a check. It doesn’t have to be a daily thing, but to experience exactly where your effort goes, and the difference it can make is vital for us all.