“In charity shall you be established.”
- Isaiah 54:14 and Zohar Bechukotai 6:23
In a day, we can be asked to give multiple times. From political campaigns to feed the children solicitors on the street, the call to give can feel endless. Social media has made it easier to raise money for a cause through crowdfunding sites, Facebook, Twitter, and even text messages, adding to the barrage of requests for funding. It can be overwhelming—so much so that we may be inclined to avoid giving at all. But the act of sharing our resources with others is paramount to our spiritual growth. Seneca said, “There is no delight in owning anything unshared.” So important is the idea of sharing that kabbalists have categorized three different kinds, each important for a different reason: community giving, tithing, and charity or tzedaka.
This kind of giving is part of being an active citizen in our community. It is the responsibility we have to take care of each other. Community giving is giving time, energy, and money to repair the damages we have collectively made. In transforming our community for the better, we also transform ourselves. Community giving helps us to connect to others and see firsthand how sharing prevents chaos in our lives. By helping others, we are helping ourselves.
Non-profits deal with this issue in various ways—some through medical clinics and rehabilitation programs, others through beach and park clean-up groups. In the same way that a family must come together to keep a household in order, members of a community must also attend to the care of each other and the upkeep of our environment. The same rules apply—if you make a mess, clean it up! If you break it, fix it!
Kabbalists teach the importance of tithing—giving 10 percent of one’s income. The biblical chapter, Re’eh, explains how the Israelites are meant to tithe. Moses stresses the necessity, “If you follow God’s laws, you will be blessed more than all the peoples of the earth.”
Tithing is often confused with giving to charity. The purpose is not to help others or to receive a warm fuzzy feeling. We tithe in order to create abundance in our lives. By keeping the flow of abundance moving, we keep the channels open and clear for blessings to be sent our way. In his book, The Way of the Kabbalist, Yehuda Berg explains the consequences of neglecting this responsibility, “If we do not tithe, we have literally given the negative force a piece of our income and a window through which to enter. Tithing slams the window shut.” Tithing is our spiritual obligation—if we do not, ten percent of our income will be taken anyway.
Some compare it to removing a rotten orange from a fruit bowl. Eliminating the bad piece will prevent the rest from spoiling. Tithing preserves abundance.
When we give above and beyond ten percent of our income, it is called tzedaka—sharing with the Desire to Receive for Others. The more you give, the more miracles and blessings you receive in life.
Kabbalists teach that we should give beyond our comfort zone. For someone who owns a lucrative business, giving money may be easy and cause little discomfort. The more transformative act for such a person may be to volunteer time, like tutoring underprivileged children, baking cookies for a fundraiser, or mentoring an at-risk teen.
In his book, The Secret, Michael Berg elaborates, “Yet long before we do anything or give anything, whether money or love or wise counsel, our action is defined by the character of the desire that underlies it—and Kabbalah teaches that true sharing is defined by our desire for spiritual transformation.” Some choose to give anonymously, the highest form of giving since there is no social recognition to be gained. Others choose to give to organizations that promote independence and self-reliance. Consider giving before it is asked of you; anticipate the needs of others and seek out worthy organizations to support.
Despite how you choose to share resources with others, give cheerfully, knowing you are helping to decrease chaos and darkness in the world and create more Light for all.