Is a tzedakah box important? As Sophie commented in our last blog, “Physical objects matter; they carry memories and stories.”
So how can your tzedakah box carry memories? Through the object itself, yes. More important, through the concept of sharing — and of how you bring it to life in your family.
Make your tzedakah box
Even though I love our new tzedakah box, you certainly don’t need to purchase one.
In fact, you can make a tzedakah box from a tissue box.
There are lots of variations. For instance, don’t want to paint? The kids can glue a collage of magazine pictures to the can. Or, for greater durability, wrap the container in contact paper, then jazz it up with glitter pens (I love those!) or markers.
Tradition of sharing
It is traditional to place money into the tzedakah box before Shabbat and festivals.
While the word tzedakah is often translated as “charity,” the root of the word means justice or righteousness.
And the tradition goes way, way back.
In fact, nine hundred years ago, Rabbi Maimonides defined eight levels of tzedakah.
Create your family’s tzedakah tradition
As a family, you can decide where to donate the money from your box. Even young children begin to learn that they can make a difference in the world. As your children get older, the conversations can grow in complexity.
Dasee Berkowitz gives more ideas about donating money and cans of food to a food pantry in this kveller.com article, “Charity Rituals for Kids, Making tzedakah a regular part of your life.”
One year, my marketing business donated comforters, blankets, and stuffed animals to a woman’s shelter. Our girls did the shopping with me. So the idea of giving became tangible.
Here are just a few ideas to brainstorm at your table – ideas that go beyond the box, beyond the coins – about how your family can share.
- Make get-well cards for people who are sick
- Volunteer as a family in a soup kitchen
- Hold a winter coat drive; you can start as small as your neighborhood list-serv, and the kids can help pick up the coats, box them, and go with you to donate them
- Work together in a community garden that grows veggies for people who need them
Unexpected updates on our new tzedakah box
Our young grandsons recently spent a weekend with us. (Yay!) As soon as they walked into the kitchen, they spotted the tzedakah box. Here are two things that happened that I hadn’t expected:
- They discovered that if you shake the box upside down, coins will fall out. They also wanted to make it chug along like a train.
- As we put in coins before Shabbat dinner, we talked very simply about what the box was for. Two days later, in playing a run-around-the-ping-pong-table game, our toddler grandson stopped us to “pay a toll” each time we came around. The first three tolls were a hug, three dollars, and a piece of chocolate cake. And then, he said he needed food for his family to eat. I know he made the connection with tzedakah. I was blown away. And so the understanding begins.