Beth El Tzedaka
You can donate by downloading our Tzedaka Form and mailing it with your check payable to Beth El Synagogue or securely online using Paypal:
Simply follow the instructions at the above link to
pay with either a Paypal account or a credit card.
When donating through Paypal, please select "List
fund(s) & associated dedication(s)", then
indicate where you would like your donation directed as well
dedication request. You can also follow up with an email to
the office alerting us to your donation.
Contributing Shares of Stock to Beth El:
One way to boost your charitable contributions
to Beth El is to give shares of appreciated stock instead of cash.
You do not pay any tax on your capital gain, and your charitable
deduction is the shares' entire fair market value. Several Beth
El members contribute shares of stock to satisfy their dues pledge,
their annual fund pledge, and other contributions to the Congregation.
After consulting your tax advisor, please contact our Financial
Secretary at email@example.com for
instructions on contributing your shares of stock. You may download
the stock donation form linked above.
If you'd like to donate directly
Kitchen Initiative, please send your donation payable
to Beth El with "Sisterhood Kitchen
Initiative" noted in the memo line, please.) 1004
Watts St., Durham, NC 27701
Maimonides on Charity, Tzedakah, Righteousness, and Justice...
Among the Rambam's works was a treatise on Tzedaka
The Rambam identified EIGHT Levels of Charity,
or doing justice. They are:
- A person gives but is not happy when s/he digs
into the pocket in order to give.
- A person gives cheerfully, but gives less than
- A person gives, but only when asked by a poor
- A person gives without having to be asked,
but gives directly to the poor. The poor person knows he gave
the help, and the giver knows who was benefited
- A person gives a donation in a certain place,
but walks away so that the giver does not know who received
the benefit. The poor person knows the giver however.
- A person makes a donation to a poor person
secretly. The giver knows who was benefited, but the poor person
does not know who the giver was.
- A person contributes anonymously to the tzedakah
fund which is then distributed to the poor.
- The highest level of charity is to give money
and help to prevent another person from becoming poor. For
example, teaching a person a trade, finding them a job, lending
money, teaching them to fish.
If one did not know that
Maimonides was the name of a man, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote,
one would assume it was the name of a university. The writings
and achievements of this twelfthcentury Jewish
sage seem to cover an impossibly large number of activities. Maimonides
was the first person to write a systematic code of all Jewish law,
the Mishneh Torah; he produced one of the great philosophic statements
of Judaism, The Guide to the Perplexed; published a commentary
on the entire Mishna; served as physician to the sultan of Egypt;
wrote numerous books on medicine; and, in his "spare time," served
as leader of Cairo's Jewish community. It is hardly surprising
that when Shmuel ibn Tibbon, the Hebrew translator of The Guide
to the Perplexed (which had been written in Arabic), wrote Maimonides
that he wished to visit him to discuss some difficult points in
the translation, Maimonides discouraged him from coming:
at Fostat, and the sultan resides at Cairo [about a mileandahalf
away].... My duties to the sultan are very heavy. I am obliged
to visit him every day, early in the morning, and when he or any
of his children or any of the inmates of his harem are indisposed,
I dare not quit Cairo, but must stay during the greater part of
the day in the palace. It also frequently happens that one of the
two royal officers fall sick, and I must attend to their healing.
Hence, as a rule, I leave for Cairo very early in the day, and
even if nothing unusual happens, I do not return to Fostat until
the afternoon. Then I am almost dying with hunger. . . I find the
antechamber filled with people, both Jews and gentiles, nobles
and common people, judges and bailiffs, friends and foes-a mixed
multitude who await the time of my return.
I dismount from my animal, wash my hands, go forth
to my patients and entreat them to bear with me while I partake
of some slight refreshment, the only meal I take in the twentyfour
hours. Then I go forth to attend to my patients, and write prescriptions
and directions for their various ailments. Patients go in and out
until nightfall, and sometimes even, I solemnly assure you, until
two hours or more in the night. I converse with and prescribe for
them while lying down from sheer fatigue; and when night falls
I am so exhausted that I can scarcely speak.
In consequence of this, no Israelite can have any
private interview with me, except on the Sabbath. On that day the
whole congregation, or at least the majority of the members, come
to me after the morning service, when I instruct them as to their
proceedings during the whole week; we study together a little until
noon, when they depart. Some of them return, and read with me after
the afternoon service until evening prayers. In this manner I spend
Maimonides's full name was Moses ben Maimon; in
Hebrew he is known by the acronym of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, Rambam.
He was born in Spain shortly before the fanatical Muslim Almohades
came to power there. To avoid persecution by the Muslim sect — which
was wont to offer Jews and Christians the choice of conversion
to Islam or death — Maimonides fled with his family, first
to Morocco, later to Israel, and finally to Egypt. He apparently
hoped to continue his studies for several years more, but when
his brother David, a jewelry merchant, perished in the Indian Ocean
with much of the family's fortune, he had to begin earning money.
He probably started practicing medicine at this time.
major contribution to Jewish life remains the Mishneh Torah, his
code of Jewish law. His intention was to compose a book that would
guide Jews on how to behave in all situations just by reading the
Torah and his code, without having to expend large amounts of time
searching through the Talmud. Needless to say, this provocative
rationale did not endear Maimonides to many traditional Jews, who
feared that people would rely on his code and no longer study the
Talmud. Despite sometimes intense opposition, the Mishneh Torah
became a standard guide to Jewish practice: It later served as
the model for the Shulkhan Arukh, the sixteenthcentury
code of Jewish law that is still regarded as authoritative by Orthodox
Philosophically, Maimonides was a religious rationalist.
His damning attacks on people who held ideas he regarded as primitive — those,
for example, who understood literally such biblical expressions
as “the finger of God” so infuriated his opponents
that they proscribed parts of his code and all of The Guide to
the Perplexed. Other, more liberal, spirits forbade study of the
Guide to anyone not of mature years. An old joke has it that these
rabbis feared that a Jew would start reading a section in the Guide
in which Maimonides summarizes a rationalist attack on religion,
and fall asleep before reading Maimonides's counterattack-thereby
spending the night as a heretic.
How Maimonides's opponents reacted
to his works was no joke, however. Three leading rabbis in France
denounced his books to the Dominicans, who headed the French
Inquisition. The Inquisitors were only too happy to intervene and
burn the books. Eight years later, when the Dominicans started
burning the Talmud, one of the rabbis involved, Jonah Gerondi,
concluded that God was punishing him and French Jewry for their
unjust condemnation of Maimonides. He resolved to travel to Maimonides's
grave in Tiberias, in Israel, to request forgiveness.
most of the Jewish world, Maimonides remained a hero, of course.
When he died, Egyptian Jews observed three full days of mourning,
and applied to his death the biblical verse "The
ark of the Lord has been taken" (I Samuel 4:11).
To this day,
Maimonides and the FrenchJewish sage Rashi are
the most widely studied Jewish scholars. Contemporary yeshiva students
generally focus on the Mishneh Torah, and his Book of Commandments
(Sefer haMitzvot) a compilation of the Torah's 613 commandments.
Maimonides also formulated a credo of Judaism expressed in thirteen
articles of faith, a popular reworking of which (the Yigdal prayer)
appears in most Jewish prayerbooks. Among other things, this credo
affirms belief in the oneness of God, the divine origins of the
Torah, and the afterlife. Its twelfth statement of faith — “I
believe with a full heart in the coming of the Messiah, and even
though he may tarry I will still wait for him” — was
often among the last words said by Jews being marched into Nazi
Maimonides was one of the few Jewish thinkers whose
teachings also influenced the nonJewish world; much of his
philosophical writings in the Guide were about God and other theological
issues of general, not exclusively Jewish, interest. Thomas Aquinas
refers in his writings to “Rabbi Moses,” and shows
considerable familiarity with the Guide. In 1985, on the 850th
anniversary of Maimonides's birth, Pakistan and Cuba — which
do not recognize Israel — were among the cosponsors
of a UNESCO conference in Paris on Maimonides. Vitali Naumkin,
a Soviet scholar, observed on this occasion: “;Maimonides
is perhaps the only philosopher in the Middle Ages, perhaps even
now, who symbolizes a confluence of four cultures: GrecoRoman,
Arab, Jewish, and Western.” More
remarkably, Abderrahmane Badawi, a Muslim professor from Kuwait
University, declared: “I regard him first and foremost as
an Arab thinker.” This sentiment was echoed by Saudi Arabian
professor Huseyin Atay, who claimed that “if you didn't know
he was Jewish, you might easily make the mistake of saying that
a Muslim was writing.” That is, if you didn't read any of
his Jewish writings. Maimonides scholar Shlomo Pines delivered
perhaps the most accurate assessment at the conference: “Maimonides
is the most influential Jewish thinker of the Middle Ages, and
quite possibly of all time” (Time magazine, December 23,
1985). As a popular Jewish expression of the Middle Ages declares: “From
Moses [of the Torah] to Moses [Maimonides] there was none like
Source: Joseph Telushkin. Jewish Literacy. NY:
William Morrow and Co., 1991. Reprinted by permission of the author.