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The Music of Halacha: A Meal To Remember

I had worked all summer as a camp counselor and learning rebbi, and received a huge pay check of $400 in the mail. My father zt”l handed the envelope to me and asked me if I was prepared to give my first real Tzedaka as it was from money earned.

He sat me down to discuss how much I wanted to give to charity, and to help me decide how I wanted to distribute the funds. “What are your priorities? Do you want to give it all to the Yeshiva? Do you want to give some to poor people? Which poor people? Do you want to give some money to an organization that will distribute it to the poor or directly to someone?” The conversation changed the obligation of charity into an important and thrilling step in my Service of God. Tzedaka demanded serious thought.

I was, at that point,  so excited about my first Tzedaka that immediately after I reached my decision how to distribute my $65 to three charities, I wanted to run upstairs to get my checkbook. My father stopped me and told me to first get dressed in my Shabbat clothes. When I came downstairs, the dining room table was set as if for Shabbat. Two candles were burning, just as they did each Friday night. The table was covered with a linen tablecloth, and was set with the Shabbat china, crystal, and cutlery. My father had served bread and salami.

He wanted me to have a full scale celebration over my first Tzedaka. I was literally shaking as I wrote the three checks. Tzedaka became, and has remained, an incredibly special and powerful experience.

I carefully separate cash and coins to give to people begging. I consider the process of deciding how to distribute my Tzedaka money as an important part of my awareness of God’s role in my life.

I suggest that the next time you have money to give to charity, that you sit down with someone and discuss your priorities, and have A Meal To Remember and celebrate the opportunity.

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