All About Jewish Tzedakah Boxes

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Usually you get a free book in the mail every month as a subscriber, and sometimes you get little activities and CDs. This month they sent everyone these ADORABLE tzedakah boxes! Let me tell you what I’ve learned about them.

Tzedkah

In Hebrew “צדקה” means “justice” or “righteousness”. It also puts a heavy amount of importance on charity. Interesting how those things all go together, right?

Mitzvah

Another word that you might commonly see associated with tzedekah is “mitzvah”, which is the Hebrew term for commandments and other good deeds as required by Jewish law or doctrine. So what is a “bar mitzvah”? Its a religious ceremony in which a boy becomes a man by covenanting to keep the commandments, or become a son of the commandments. Who knew!? (Well, a lot of people, probably. But I didn’t!)

Tanakh

One more word for you – “Tanakh”, or the whole collection of Hebrew scripture, similar to, but not exactly the same, as the Old Testament. It is comprised of :

  1. the Torah (or the first five books of OT from Moses), which people often mistakenly use to name any Hebrew scripture in general. This is certainly the one name I’m most familiar with.
  2. the Nevi’im, or the Prophets

What does the Tanakh teach about the tzedakah mitzvah?

Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash

Usually in the Tanakh, “tzedekah” refers to displays of justice, such as this Jewish law laid out in Duetoronomy:

Every seventh year you shall practice remission of debts. This shall be the nature of the remission: every creditor shall remit the due that he claims from his fellow; he shall not dun his fellow or kinsman, for the remission proclaimed is of the LORD. You may dun the foreigner; but you must remit whatever is due you from your kinsmen. There shall be no needy among you—since the LORD your God will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion— if only you heed the LORD your God and take care to keep all this Instruction that I enjoin upon you this day. For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you: you will extend loans to many nations, but require none yourself; you will dominate many nations, but they will not dominate you. If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman. Rather, you must open your hand and lend him sufficient for whatever he needs. 

-Deuteronomy 15

But, the first rule of the Hebrew written language is to not use vowels. Which makes this next verse in Daniel 4:24 interesting, because the consonants are the same (tz-d-k) but the word here is “tzidak” and is one of few places where the Tanakh focuses on charity to the poor.

Therefore, O king, may my advice be acceptable to you: Redeem your sins by beneficence and your iniquities by generosity to the poor; then your serenity may be extended.

Daniel 4:24

Enter the Tzedakah Box

I would think that anywhere in the world you go, people (especially children) stash their cash and coins in piggy banks, jars and boxes of every shape and size. The tzedekah box is something of the same! Except that instead of hoarding up change for themself, Jewish families collect the spare money to be able to help someone else in need. It doesn’t have to be just money though. It could be clothes, toys, food, or any other donation. How great is that! And what a sweet practice for children to get excited about service!

In the second book of Melchim (or Kings), we learn of a biblical example where a tzedekah box was placed in the temple to help with necessary building repairs on the Holy Temple itself.

And Jehoiada the priest took one chest and bored a hole in its door; and he placed it near the altar on the right, where a person enters the house of the Lord: and the priests, the guards of the threshold, would put all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, into there.

Melachim II 12:10

It’s a tradition that’s been around clearly since Biblical times and is supported by teachings in the Tanakh to not turn away beggars empty-handed.

So, how’s that for a crash course in a piece of Jewish doctrine and tradition. And what a better time than the winter holidays to teach your children a lesson about this people with a culture of giving and end it with a service activity?!

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash

Ways to implement tzedekah in your family

  • Make your own tzedekah box and start collecting coins
  • Fill up a box or bag of toys or clothes to donate to someone in need
  • Make a habit of taking coins with you this season for your children to give to the Santa’s and Red Cross collections at local shopping centers
  • Put a box of water, granola bars and other good foods in your car to give to homeless people you see at public places that are safe to stop

To learn more, visit:

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tzedakah-101/

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/390485/jewish/A-History-of-the-Charity-Box.htm

https://pjlibrary.org/beyond-books/pj-library-tzedakah-project

If You Love Puzzles, Snail Mail, and/or Russia Then You’re Gonna Love This

I present to you the “All About Russia Giveaway!” If you’re just here for the awesome free stuff, then click the pic! If you wanna hear all about the how and why I put it together, keep reading!

Click the picture, or CLICK HERE to be directed to the giveaway!

I’m way later than I had intended to be publishing this, but better late than never, right?! I just wanted to answer any questions you all may have been thinking about this (and more upcoming giveaways) so if you think of any more questions let me know! I’ll answer them along with future events!

Why?

Maybe none of you are actually asking this. I’ve never paused to wonder why someone was doing a giveaway. I just look at whether I want the freebie or not. But from a creator’s point of view, this question is really important! The first and biggest reason for me to throw giveaways is because I have the ability, by virtue of being a “creative”, to team up with others and get access to some of these things for FREE. And if I have an opportunity to reach out and give someone a valuable gift that normally would be put on the back burner til we’re all rich, then why wouldn’t I?! Secondly, my personal opinion is that the things I make are pretty fun and educational, okay. They work for my family really well and I hope they work for others! But to continue to create them, I need an engaged audience. My thinking at present is that hopefully hosting giveaways will get people engaged on my account and encourage more people to reach out to me and talk about what I do!

How did you put this together? Is this out of pocket?

Great question! Putting together a social media giveaway is no walk in the park, people! Once I had the idea, I couldn’t put it aside and just started messaging all of these people that I love to follow and draw inspiration from on social media. I would scroll through their shops and accounts to see what things they had that worked the closest to my niche – country units, Russia, books and activities promoting diversity, and learning tools. I came up with a few common themes that I was seeing – Russia, diverse books, and studies of certain cultures and would tell the creators the theme of the giveaway I had chosen and how I thought their participation would make the giveaway more valuable.

For this particular giveaway, I was following Miss Maisy and had a different theme that she had wanted to be a part of (it fell through a few weeks ago), but she was the one who recommended doing a Russia giveaway together because – unknown to me – she was working toward her Russia letter for subscribers! It was perfect and only required a small shift for the two of us to jump on this other track. Of course, not every creator I message responds or is able to participate, so for a minute it was just the two of us.

But I was also tinkering with other ideas. (I have lots of ideas lately.) Like making and selling a puzzle design! I was doing research on how to get started and came across a video explaining how this one company – Cobble Hill Puzzles – makes their high-quality puzzles. It was actually pretty interesting to me so I gave them a peek on Insta. The first thing I saw on their account was a Matryoshka puzzle and I honestly didn’t even hesitate. I just hit that “message” button and gushed over what a pretty puzzle it was. That I had seen their video and hoped to make a puzzle one day. That I might need to get the matryoshka puzzle for myself as a Christmas present, and would they be willing to send it to a giveaway winner of my Russia-themed giveaway. I’m not sure if it was super professional, which I always try to be over messenger, but I can guarantee that it was the most “me” of all the messages I sent. They one-upped me and said, “Hey, we have your Christmas needs covered – give us your address, and then give us the contest winner’s address when it’s all over.” Friends, if I had been pregnant or any more hormonal than normal I would have cried tears of joy.

And that’s how this giveaway was set up! Miss Maisy will mail you directly. Cobble Hill Puzzles will ship to you directly, and I will send you my downloadable file! So this first giveaway is really a dream being at little to no cost to me! My next giveaway though, I will need to cover shipping to the lucky winner. But I can share the details on that one in a couple of weeks when it comes.

How does the giveaway benefit Color Me Culturally Confident?

Lots of ways! If nobody is buying my stuff, then one day I may well give up. Hosting a giveaway is a way for me to try to see what my audience wants and get my name out there. Asking friends to share about my accounts is painfully awkward, and discouraging when friends don’t follow through and share it. So giveaways fill that gap and let me connect with other creatives that can agree to support me in sharing about my products and accounts.

I don’t really want to win this giveaway (for any number of reasons), how can I still help?

No worries! I totally understand! That’s why we talk about “target audiences” in selling, right? Maybe you just aren’t the target audience because your kids are the wrong age, or whatever. But you’re a friend and still want to show support by spreading the word. So hit that “share” button anyway! It only takes you a second and you won’t win anything unwanted but eternal gratitude from me!

Red Notice by Bill Browder

Um. Whoa.

Can that be a sufficient summary for this book review?

“Red Notice” is Bill Browder’s autobiography, yes, but it’s also his personal testament and accusation against his murderers.

Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

Wait, what?

Yeah. It’s that crazy. Bill Browder is still touring the world in 2019, making global change, and very much alive. But he’s pretty sure he already knows if he’s found with a bullet in his head exactly who will have given the kill-order: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, or another high-ranking Russian oligarch in the Putin regime. So he just wanted to make sure everyone else in the world knows too.

If you’ve seen “Kicking and Screaming” then you can appreciate all the “He’s Dick, and he’s got balls!” jokes.

To put that into perspective, Vladimir Putin might just be one of the wealthiest men in the world ruling the most openly corrupt government in the world. I say “might”, because his net worth apparently is dependent on who you ask (click here to read about speculation of his net worth). Can you imagine the resources at his fingertips? You might after this story.

Now seriously, Bill Browder has some serious guts. His story is incredible, and as a result he’s been called Putin’s No 1 Enemy.

From a cultural history perspective, this story is fascinating, because we see an example of how an American helps create a major cultural shift in Russia. But also, it’s so important to be conscious of how you read generalized statements. There are so many times that Browder says something along the lines of “Russia is….just that way.” In this book, that Russia that he is usually referring to is the government of Russia, but in any book we have to consider exactly what group the author is interacting with and not allow a generalization lead to misinformation or incorrect ideas.

I know a very different version of Russia (I was there 2013-2014 at the very end of this book’s timeline), because I was involved in a religious mission, whereas Browder was invested in finance and politics. And it was interesting to me at the beginning to read some of his generalizations about Russian people being cynical and guarded. So often I met people just the opposite, and there are a lot of reasons to that. I have a very naive view Russia. But, the further into the book that I got, the more I found myself thinking that I would have read so many situations better if I had read a book like this before going to Russia.

He describes one scene in particular that I can relate to wherein a sick man falls into traffic and nobody wants to help him for fear of being falsely accused by the police. I never could understand this when I was in Russia, but I felt that his observations were pretty well-grounded as I read the book, and allowed me to reflect on personal experiences with a whole new meaning.

I’ve waited for this book for 6 months to finally be available from the library and it was worth every second of the wait. As if the book wasn’t good enough, I also searched Youtube for some videos that are vital to the story and was so impressed at what I found. I don’t know what I envisioned when he talked about the Youtube content they created, but these are really really great videos that describe in simple terms major parts of the story and were used in order to protect different people and fight the corruption of Russian government simultaneously.

There are at least 3 in this series that should be listed when you follow this link to Youtube.

I also found a number of TEDtalks given by the man himself – Bill Browder – and this one is another decent summary of events in this story. But still, you have to read the book!