We have to admit our attempts at tzedakah (“charity”) are way lame. We rarely write out checks to charitable organizations (and then only for the free tote bag,) barely cover our synagogue dues and occasionally pass a fiver to the woman and her kid standing by the freeway. When it comes to helping the poor, we’ve usually been on the receiving end, having just accepted another sizeable donation from our bubbie for emergency dental work. Yes, we prefer to fritter away our money on organic groceries and expensive vodka instead of giving ten percent of our paltry income (the traditional Jewish percentage) to charity. We are bad, selfish people.
We’d like to do something to make this nagging, guilty feeling go away. The Talmud describes the different levels of tzedakah, from the least worthy to the most, as:
1. Giving begrudgingly
2. Giving less that you should, but giving it cheerfully.
3. Giving after being asked
4. Giving before being asked
5. Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient knows your identity
6. Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient doesn’t know your identity
7. Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity
8. Enabling the recipient to become self-reliant
Being lazy as well as self-indulgent, we’re going to skip right to #8. Instead of buying anyone Chanukah/other holiday gifts this year (which will save us endless hours trolling through Amazon.com,) we’re going to buy you all items from Heifer International menagerie. Which means you’ll get nothing, really, but someone less fortunate will.
The Little Rock, AR-based non-profit addresses the problem of world hunger not by sending out cans of condensed milk, but by sending the whole damn cow. For 60 years Heifer has provided needy families around the world with a way to feed themselves, create a sustainable income and pass on their good fortune by giving offspring to other poor families. One cow ($500) can produce enough milk for a family and leave enough to sell; now that’s self-reliance. An “ark” composed of fifteen pairs of useful animals ($5000) can bring an entire village out of poverty. If that’s too steep, there’s always rabbits ($60), honeybees ($30) or chickens ($20).
While Heifer’s site calls itself “faith-based,” we haven’t found any evidence that Heifer is some weird missionary sham to get heathens in poor countries to convert to Christianity. They provide non-denominational educational materials to both synagogues and churches and lead tours to places where the program has been a success. And all we have to do to help them is click to our PayPal account.
Who know tikkun olam could be so easy for retards like us?
brilliant thinking, ed.
… but thanks to the chicanery and the outright lies coming from the Team (Lonnie Thompson’s public whopper about Kilamanjaro sublimation springs to mind), it will take decades or longer to untangle the primary research from the political spin. Unfortunately, by then we will all be drowned by boiling seas.