According to Moses Maimonides, a great medieval philosopher, there are eight degrees of tzedakah (with number 1 being the ultimate and number 8 being the most basic) still followed today:
- Seeing to a person’s independence by providing a person with a job, entering into a partnership that allows the person to establish a business, giving an interest-free loan, giving a grant.
- Giving tzedakah anonymously through a reputable third party and without knowing who will receive the aid.
- Giving anonymously to a known recipient.
- Giving publicly to an unknown recipient.
- Giving without being asked.
- Giving generously after being asked.
- Giving gladly but not generously.
- Giving grudgingly.
The highest form of charity is when you prevent others from ever becoming poor, such as by offering a loan or employment or investing in someone’s business. It is much harder for people to emerge from bankruptcy than for them to be helped before their business fails. When a donkey’s load begins to slip from its back, a single man is capable of adjusting it and keeping the donkey from falling. Once the animal has fallen, however, even five people cannot get it back on its feet. The second highest level of giving is found in the rabbinic ideal of giving to the poor, where neither the donor nor the recipient knows the identity of the other. In descending order, the next levels of charity are the donor knows the recipient, but the recipient does not know the donor; the recipient knows the donor, but the donor does not know the recipient; giving directly to a poor person without being asked; giving only after being asked; giving cheerfully but less than one should; and giving grudgingly.
Experience the Power of Prophecy as a gift to open your mind to receive the Mind of Christ.
What form of tzedakah do you find yourself doing more often?