Importance Of Tzedakah - Rosh Hashanah
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes
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Teach the kids about tzedaka, how it’s done, why it’s important.
- Blindfold (a tie of scarf will do)
- small candies (Starburst)
- Rambam cards
- paper coins
Game 1: Johnny Over, Tzedaka Variation
Before Shabbat, make approximately 20 circles, preferably out of yellow construction paper. These will represent coins in the game. Take the coins and spread them out in your room/area. Put one or two chairs somewhere in the playing area to represent Tzedaka Boxes. Pick one person to be in the middle. Everyone else goes to one side of the room. When the person in the middle yells “Johnny Over,” everyone else tries to run from one side of the room to the other, while the person in the middle tries to tag as many of them as s/he can. If s/he tags them, they join him/her in the middle and try to tag others as well. As an added twist, the coins are spread out in the room. As the people run across the room, they must try and pick up as many of the coins as possible, and deposit them in the tzedaka box. The game ends either when everyone is caught, or when all the coins are put into tzedaka.
Discussion: In this game, it is a bit difficult to be able to give Tzedaka. First you have to get the coins, and then reach the tzedaka box to give them away. In real life, we often think about how hard we work to earn our money, and question whether it is “fair” for us to give it to someone for free. Is this fair? Everything we have really comes from Hashem. The money we have isn’t really our own. Hashem commanded us to give tzedaka, so when we do so, we are what its real owner, Hashem, wants us to do with it.
In real life, it is not very difficult to find places to give tzedaka. What and who needs tzedaka in our city? Country? In the world? Which is the most important to give to? According to halacha, we must first look after our own city before giving tzedaka to other places.
Game 2: Put the coins in the box
Have the chanichim sit in a circle, and pick one person to sit in the middle of the circle with a box under his chair. This person is blindfolded. For this game, it is very important that everyone remain quiet. One at a time, pick chanichim in the circle to try and put a coin into the box. The person in the middle listens and tries to tag anyone he hears approaching. After one or two rounds this way, you may want to liven up the game by changing it around, and putting candies underneath the chair. Instead of putting coins underneath, the chanichim are then trying to take a candy out.
Discussion: In this game, we started off putting money into the tzedaka, and later took candy out of it. In many cities, something called a G’mach is set up. This is a type of tzedaka that lends money to people. If you need money, you are allowed to take from the G’mach, but must pay it back when you have sufficient funds. When you give money to the G’mach, you make sure there is always enough money in it for people to borrow.
Story: The Worthy Donor
It once happened that the Maggid of Dubno, while collecting funds for a certain charitable cause, met a wealthy man who had the unenviable reputation of being a great miser.
In order to induce the man to make at least a small donation, Rabbi Yaakov proceeded to enumerate some of the contributions that he had already received, not from wealthy people but from simple artisans and shopkeepers.
“You know Chayim the blacksmith,” he began, “He doesn’t have much money, but he gave me five thalers. Tuvya the shopkeeper donated six, and Yossel the shoemaker, who also doesn’t have too much money to give away, let me have ten whole thalers…”
“I beg your pardon,” the wealthy man said, interrupting the Maggid’s recital: “I would not call these people charitable. They are poor men, and when they die they won’t leave anything worth mentioning. But, Master, I shall tell you a secret; I have made my will and in it I leave most of my money to the poor after my death. You will understand, then, why I cannot give you anything today.”
Replied the Maggid of Dubno: “Yes, that point is well taken and deserves a proper answer. I shall therefore tell you a Mashal: Do you know the difference between a hen and a pig? Never mind, I shall answer it for you. The hen is a small animal and does not have much to give. Her eggs are small and light, and may weigh but two ounces each. And yet the farmer will coddle her like a baby. Even if she should leave her coop, walk into her master’s house through the back door, and track dirt all over her mistress’ newly-washed kitchen floor, not even a feather on her back would be touched. Now the pig is much larger. It weighs two hundred pounds and of this, twenty-five pounds are pure lard. You would think it’s quite valuable then, would you not? And yet no one is ever nice to the pig. If it ever left its sty it would be driven back in with a broomstick and if it ever dared enter its master’s house, why, it would get a beating that it would not soon forget.”
“Come to the point Rabbi,” Said the man impatiently. “What is the reason for this discrimination?”
“Be patient,” retorted Rabbi Yaakov. “This is just what I want to explain. The hen may not have much, but what she does give, she gives faithfully each day as long as she lives. The pig may have much more wealth to offer, but it will give it up only after it is dead. Now tell me, which of the two is the worthier donor?”
Game 3: The 8 Levels of Tzedaka
In his Mishna Torah, the Rambam lists 8 levels of tzedaka which a person can give. They are listed below in order. Depending on the size of your kvutza, break them up into 2 or 3 smaller groups and give each group a cut up set of these cards. Ask them to arrange the cards in order from best to worst. If there are any differences in order, have them discuss why they arranged the cards that way. Point out the several factors, and ask why they are important: who knows where the money is going/from? Is it given willingly? Is it enough?
Help a person become self-sufficient by giving them a job or a loan to start a business.
The Person giving doesn’t know the person receiving, and the person receiving doesn’t know the person giving.
The giver knows the receiver, but the person receiving doesn’t know the giver.
The giver doesn’t know the receiver, but the person receiving knows the giver.
A Direct donation to the hand of the needy person, given without being asked.
A direct donation of sufficient size given after being asked.
A direct donation of a small size given cheerfully, after being asked.
A direct small donation given unwillingly after being asked.