What Is Tzedakah?


This week we celebrate Passover, remembering the bitter times and celebrating our freedom from slavery. This holiday is also connected to tzedakah. Although we think of tzedakah as just putting money in a collection box, it is much more to me. It is rooted in the word tzidkut, which means righteousness, fairness and justice. In the story of Passover, Moses displayed tzidkut when he tried to bargain with Pharoah to let the Israelites go. And Moses acted out of tzedakah when he led the Israelites to the Promised Land, even though he was not allowed to enter. Throughout the Seder, we teach our children about the oppression of the Jewish people and their salvation through tzedakah.

While we are no longer slaves in Egypt, we have all felt as though we were a slave to something, shackled down and unable to move forward to reach our goals. We overcome these challenges with the help of our community. And in turn, we help others in our community when they are in need. We do this not because we must, but because it is righteous and fair. This is how we elevate not just ourselves but our community.

As a part of the Jewish community in Howard County, I have given and received tzedakah in many ways. Between my synagogue, Temple Isaiah, and the Jewish Federation of Howard County I have joined committees, participated in outreach and donated my time, in part as a photographer at community events. The Jewish Federation provided me with invaluable programming, including jLeads, its young adult leadership program, which gave me the confidence to accept a position as trustee on the Temple Isaiah board. Because of my relationship with the Federation, I received a glowing recommendation for that position. The leadership training provided by the Federation also drove me to become a member of the Jewish Council on Scouting for the Baltimore area and bring programming such as Tzofim (Israeli Scouts) Friendship Caravan to Howard County.

The most rewarding activity for me has been my participation in Good Deeds Day, which in Howard County is organized and funded by the Jewish Federation of Howard County. Two years ago I participated in GDD, washing fire engines with my son. At last year’s GDD, I organized a blood drive at Temple Isaiah, and this year I am the chair of Good Deeds Day.

While I try to do a good deed every day, GDD is a way to go above and beyond. This year’s GDD features several sites around Howard County, with multiple programs happening at many of the sites. You can walk a dog, make blankets for children at hospitals, pack up food for the elderly, help build a playground and much more. Learn more about Good Deeds Day at jewishhowardcounty.org/gooddeedsday.

Eric McCormick lives in Columbia with his wife, Annie, and children, Lucie and Parker.

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