Seeing Charity as Justice
Our synagogue has recently begun a program in which those who are ill or returning home from the hospital have meals provided by members of our congregation. One such family was in great need – the husband was undergoing treatment for cancer of the throat and was receiving chemotherapy, while the wife was receiving radiation, having had surgery for breast cancer. We provided meals for the couple for five weeks, until their respective treatments were essentially completed, and they were self-sufficient once again.
The Hebrew word for charity – tzedakah – is the same as the word for justice. In the Jewish world, what is charitable is regarded as acting as God’s proxy to insure that His justice is carried out. God creates divine justice, and we can’t know how and when this will play out. But God wants us to create human justice – to help others in need. If we knew how divine justice were ultimately meted out, we would understand God’s ways. But this would come at the cost of being human.
If we knew that all suffering would eventually be reconciled, if we saw things here on earth from God’s perspective, we might fail to help those in need, thinking that this illness or that need would ultimately be taken care of by God, or were divined specifically by Him. But that’s not our mission here on earth. Our job is to care for those in distress, ensuring that those less powerful have their interests and rights championed. Charity and justice are thus intertwined.
If you have a comment or question about this blog entry, email Dr. Roffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.