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Archive for June 19th, 2006

The Concept of Tzedakah

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on June 19, 2006

“To each and everyone according to his needs, from each and everyone according to his ability.”

That is what Tzedakah is all about – a Just distribution of Society’s resources, so that no-one is in such need that he has reason to ask for assistance. It is not to be mistaken for charity – charity is based on the idea that one is better off then the other, thus creating an unequal relationship which in the end only serves to cement poverty and inequality. Charity assumes that the ones in need of assistance are in need of assistance on all levels of life and have nothing to contribute and nothing of worth to give to the Community. Charity is in and of itself extremely egotistical, because it puts focus on the giver rather than on the receiver. Just think of the idea that giving to charity is tax-deductable! Give to charity and you don’t have to pay your due to the Community…yeah real philantropic.

Tzedakah takes into consideration that all people have something they can contribute to the common good of the Community, it also takes into consideration that we are all in need in some respect, therefore on equal footing with each other. It doesn’t ask people to pull themselves up by the boot-straps, regardless of whether they have boots or not – it makes sure they have boots and no reason to pull anything.

In Judaism the highest level of Tzedakah is making sure a person is self-sufficient – i.e that he can provide for himself.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”

It has always struck me as ‘interesting’ that so many people who profess to be Conservatives also profess to be Religious – but find the idea of Tzedakah offensive and threatening. It seems contradictory. Most Religions, teach some sort of “care for the weak”, yet those who profess to be the most Religious are often those who complain that the weak and poor in society are ‘mooching’ off of the rich. It doesn’t add up.

Being without means doesn’t mean that you have nothing at all, it means that you have something else of value. Tzedakah ensures that what you have is valued as enriching to Society.

Maybe the poor shoe maker is poor in a finacial sense, and needs Tzedakah to provide for his kids – but he is rich in knowledge on how to make shoes, which means he can teach. The Rabbi might not be very well off, and some times need assistance to make ends meet – but he has one thing in abundance – knowledge of Torah, which provides Spirtual richness to the Community. The Artist may not be rich at all, but what he creates enriches peoples’ lives by providing beauty that opens peoples’ souls and hearts…and so on and so forth – monetary wealth is good, but not having monetary wealth is not equivalent to being a parasite.

It’s time that the Haves of our World start realizing that the Have Nots might indeed have both wealth and riches, their only need is Tzedakah – Just distribution of the World’s Resources on a daily basis, because 1% of the World’s population sitting on all the money, complaining that the rest of us are sucking them dry, at the same time handing out breadcrumbs to make themselves feel good doesn’t go any where near putting your money where you mouth is in relation to G-d.



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Europe vs. America – Two Mindsets Colliding

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on June 19, 2006

An American woman brought up a Topic for Discussion – she spoke about how the USA is perceived around the world – in her specific post to a Discusssion Group, the issue had come up in relation to Canada – but she opened it up for International opinions. She some gave examples of those perceptions and ideas about America


– that the world sees America as a bully nation

-the world sees the US as arrogant and hasty to start war, we helped Kuwait when they asked but not Rwanda (and we supposedly only help countries who have oil or other resources we can use,)

-we think Canada is a nation of *commies* because of their health care system

-we don’t do enough to help other countries (we just gave something like 22 million dollars to a third world country hit by a flood)

-we only see the world as it relates to us

-that Americans have an arrogant attitude


Here is my answer:

“I think that it has to do with the US being such a young Nation in comparison with Europe. It’s like looking a teenager. One day very confident and all mature like, only to next day being quite the opposite, throwing tantrums and being absolutely obnoxious about things.

I have learned over the last two years in Care2 that Americans in general are very different from Europeans. I call it the American Mindset vs the European Mindset, and it does seem that while it is quite ok to criticize other Nations for their flaws and failures – criticizing the US is almost always seen by Americans as Anti-American. Or it’s called bashing.

In Sweden where I live, Americans do have a reputation of being loud, rude, arrogant, self-centered, egotistical and generally very demanding people, who are easily offended if they don’t get what they want when they want it, the way they want it.

I have on more than one occasion had opportunity to witness American tourists drive clerks and waiters to tears over things that could easily have been solved, had there been just a little room for compromise on the tourists’ part. Not a nice sight. And it doesn’t do much to change the general perception of Americans.

I have seen the same happening here in Care2.

What I have wondered more than once is – if 1 person says that you are a donkey, you can brush it off, right? But if 100 people tells you you are a donkey, then perhaps you would do good to take a look and see if maybe you do have a tail and long ears…

So, what are the conclusions drawn by Americans when they here this criticism? Where do they think it comes from? Do they even HEAR it, or does it just peel off like water on a goose? What do you think is the reason that so many people around the world have the same perceptions of Americans?”

I think that what most non-American people are missing in the American approach is simple HUMILITY. You know the ability to say: “I don’t know”, “I am just one among others, and my country is just one among other countries..”, and going about helping without blowing their own horn or demand that people are eternally grateful or accepting that helping others means helping them on their own terms, giving them the help they are asking for without a hundred strings attached. To ask for help and to receive help is not the same as being willing to sell one’s soul or undying loyalty.

Or to simply take their place in humanity as humans, without fanfares and parades – paying their due to the Global Community without demading extra privileges or shirking their responsibility out of spite. The US as a nation, cannot one day demand to be given special privileges, such as immunity for their soldiers when they commit war crimes, and the next day refuse to pay it’s member fee to UN. Nor can it demand a seat on the UN Security Council with a veto vote, and then the next day support nations that violate Human Rights, or even violate those Human Rights themselves…

This is not all that Americans are – they are a lot of good things too – but because the negative is SO negative, it’s hard to see the good. Especially when the National Actions are hurtful to the entire world.


Posted in Europe | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

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