Why All Your Mitzvahs Should NOT Be Done Secretly

Some time, somewhere along the way it seems that the idea was spread, that our mitzvahs — those acts we do for the benefits for others — must be done in secret.

That is certainly true for some of them. A fine example would be:

1. You want to be certain that financially-strapped members of your congregation might not be able to afford all the provisions for a menschlich Passover.

2. You want to do something for them, but you don’t want them to know who you are, and you don’t want to know which specific family is benefiting.

3. Solution: donate to the Rabbi’s discretionary fund for this purpose, and the Rabbi makes it happen and at the same time preserves your anonymity.

However, in a situation like the one above, this is only #2 on the Rambam’s famous list of 8 levels of Tzedakah. Higher still, #1, is helping someone become self-sustaining. If you are trying to help someone find a job, you certainly have to know enough of the person’s skills and personality to make the proper match.

And however, where anonymity does not apply, by not talking about your mitzvahs, you are possibly keeping others from joining you in your Tikkun Olam efforts and preventing that many more people from benefiting. This is most certainly counter-productive and not the intent of Judaism’s intense stress on mitzvahs.

And however, here is a prime example of the need to talk about and share:

1. I was invited to a synagogue that wanted to emphasize Tikkun Olam in its program.

2. I was warned that the present chairperson of that committee was rather “low key.”

3. I talked to her privately before My first presentation and she told me that she was a home health care nurse and on her own prepares 75 Thanksgiving meals for the people she works with.

4. When I spoke to the Board, not a single one of them knew this, and a few were bothered by not knowing, as they would have most certainly offered to help by preparing some of the food, including their special, secret recipe for stuffing.

Furthermore, for the family, a recent study proved that parents not only have to model their mitzvahs to their children, but they have to also talk to them, about what they do.

This no doubt also applies outside of the family.

In all situations, the talker-about-his-or-her-mitzvahs is not bragging. They are only sharing that they do in the hope that others will learn about new opportunities to do mitzvahs or/and join them in the mitzvah work.

I hope this has clarified a point that has been misunderstood about our Jewish tradition, since the well-being of so many people is at stake.

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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