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Does time count as tzedakah?

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Comments (30)

(26) Aliza, January 29, 2012 4:44 PM

too complicated for a 2-minute video

Tzedekah is far too complicated to be thoroughly discussed in a 2-minute video, so people, please don't think that it's "give 10% or else" There are all sorts of guidelines regarding how to give (including if you should!) if you are poor, how to calculate your time if you are giving of your time in your *professional* capacity, how much you should give (10 - 20% is the guideline). Please ask a rabbi, and don't assume. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or a home or a library is giving of your time and is extremely generous, but does not equal giving a tithe. These are two different things, both being generous and giving. I think I get what Mrs. Palatnik was trying to say in this video. Perhaps it could have been worded differently, more gently, but I don't think she meant to say that one town is "better" than another, or that you're selfish or greedy if you volunteer but don't give money. This is an important halacha. Please take the time to learn it thoroughly. It made such a difference (and gave us such relief!) in my household when we did.

(25) Moshe, January 15, 2012 5:21 PM

Time is money

Not entirely correct about time. A professional deduct 90% of time value.

(24) Gavin-Chaim Marsden, January 12, 2012 9:18 PM


Hashem took His time and in His kindness He created man and women

(23) Anonymous, January 12, 2012 9:02 PM

For all who are interested in learning the halachot of giving tzedakah, there is an excellent book by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger called "Priorities in Tzedaka - Higher forms of giving". Rabbi Goldberger concisely outlines the laws of who should be giving and the individual's tzedaka priorities.

(22) Anonymous, January 12, 2012 5:46 AM

Jacob made a vow to tithe. This isn't some new kind of teaching Lori is saying. It's been around a few years. Like several thousands of. I was 23 when I first heard about tithing. Before then, it probable was said, but it went in one ear and out the other. R' Goldstein taught me that Judaism isn't about all or nothing, explaining that when you don't shut the door on a commandment, you are open to it, even though you are not fulfilling it, you have not said NO to it, refusing to do nothing. That's how he explain that it's not about all or nothing. Tough commandments, you have to chew on it for awhile. A little at a time, starting out small, with the goal of reaching it. Making excuses and saying no way am I going to do that, you shut the door on trying to fulfill the commandment by doing nothing, and planning on doing nothing, importantly it's the planning on doing nothing that leads to never doing it and closing the door on it completely and permanently. Jacob vowed to tithe everything, from money, possessions even his child Levi for divine service. O.K. Jacob was really into it, and he fulfilled the ALL, struggling and wrestling, reached to perfection for him in saying yes, and doing ALL. Lori, the communities that are generous, are the ones that have been taught and heard it, to give tzedakah. The communities that haven't been taught or heard it doesn't, and that's why they ask you to come. They were angry over this; those who asked you to come probable have gotten the same response when they had tried, were hoping an outsider from that community they may listen. It's still something new to them, the giving 10% message, for it probable never was brought up before, 1) there was no need, people were being generous without mentioning it, 2) demanding cost has lowered allotted what the community is giving, with the economy people have backed off, not giving as usual. 3) before the need was peoples time, now it's money, that's new to them to hear.

(21) Chavie Gottlieb, January 12, 2012 4:19 AM

ask your Rav or buy the Tzedakah book for clarity

There is a halacha here and that's the bottom line. We are obligated to follow the law. People should ask their Rabbis. Some situations, for example with men sitting and learning may be different. Some poskim feel part of children's tuition can be considered maaser. There is an excellent book on Tzedaka which helped me gain much clarity by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer. For those outside of Toronto who seek guidance, it's an excellent resource. By the way, there are people who are critical of the "collecting hours" in Toronto. But they do have a very honored reputation with philanthropy. It would be interesting to note how it began - with a Rav or a family? Someone obviously set a precedent there. But Lori please don't malign other communities. Every community has it's strong points. Some are tzniyus, some bikur cholim. There's a world out there of kindness and charitable deeds. One thing is for sure, giving is always a good thing. There are so many in need. May we be blessed for gezunt and prosperity.

(20) Chayke, January 11, 2012 10:45 PM

I agree with Lori however for those with financial issues a rav can be asked as to how much tzedakah one is obligated to give! Hashem is not out to get us He loves us and wants us to be generous, caring and giving just like Him!

I agree with Lori, however for those who are concerned about their finances they can consult a Rabbi as to how much tzedakah they must give if any! hashem is not out to get us! He loves us and wants us to be sharing caring and giving just like Him! Everything we have is really G-d"s so He has a right to ask for whatever He desires ! What better way to show G-d we love and care about Him them loving and caring and giving to His children even if we don"t want to!

(19) ruth housman, January 11, 2012 2:11 PM

Jerusalem dates: the Giving Tree many ways to perform ACTS

I think there is a reason people are saying "what's mine" I give, meaning my time, meaning my soul, meaning myself, in throwing oneself into the activities that do "call" to us all that are about saving and being part of the better part of meaning itself. There is a way to turn around your words, Lori. But you might not see this. I give almost my entire life, in working as a writer, in the poetry of expression, of love, in educating about what I am gifted to perceive. That is, perhaps, my gift. Those working for other organizations, could be giving their skills in carpentry, in psychotherapy, in shopping for others, in myriad ways, that are in the real of "outside of time" spent in the "JOB JOB". I would say true giving is of oneself, and not in the money. And often I see people begging, and I have to turn away, with deep regrets, because it's just not possible to give to the world, but in our small ways, in how we gift each other, we do give to the world, because all is truly One. There could be, a far far greater gift, than money, and it is actually not about holding on to this "stuff", it's about finding the true green, the Go in G_d, which is taking oneself and doing it. Sometimes, to turn this around, it's far easier to throw money at a problem and let someone else take care of it. Life has this bipolar side, and I am taking the other side, and I feel you cannot EVER judge a whole community as you just did, as giving or not giving. As in pockets, and how we turn them out to give, so there are pockets of kindness everywhere, in the world, and not just Toronto, and in myriad untold and anonymous ways of giving, the woman who keeps an Alzheimer's patient living at home, gifting of herself, is far far more valuable than money itself. And no money will ever compensate for her deep gift of compassionate love. It's actually about time to consider, to con siddur and re con siddur our words, and mandates, and man dates. We all have a date with destiny, being LOVE.

(18) Shawn Paley, January 11, 2012 1:57 PM

I couldn't disagree any stronger.

Increasingly, time is our most valuable asset. In our computerized world it is being measured in fractions of a second. I can give a dollar at dozens of sites simply by taking a second to click a sponsor supported button, i.e., "In the first six months of 2011, your Clicks funded over 29 million cups of food. Sign up for daily reminders." or playing Games that Give: or even donating my computers spare time: "Please Share and Join - World Community Grid via @Digg Volunteer your computer's idle time for vital research causes. For a video guide see:" Lori, if you really want to fit into the New Age we are going into you need to expand your imagination beyond the green pieces of paper in your wallet. Colored paper isn't the most valuable thing we own. Our time is! As the song says, "Not another minute you can buy" As person potential going on my 4th cancer I'm keenly aware of just how valuable our time in this world is and I'm greatly offended by you trying to demean people donating it!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous, January 11, 2012 9:46 PM

i beg to differ

with all due respect, i dont think lori was implying that your time is not worth much. she's just informing us that the torah obligation to give 10% of our income means that we're obligated to give money, and that one is not obsolved from this obligation when he choses to give of his time as well. time is precious, and its very beautiful if one is willing to give some of it for a worthy cause, but he is still obligated to give of his money too.

Anonymous, January 12, 2012 3:36 AM

There is a difference between Tzedakah and chased

#19 I can understand where you are comming from and wish you a refuah shelaiymah as my son was just rediagnosed for the fifth time. There is nothing more meaningful to us than the chesed that is done for us each and everyday by so many wonderful people there time their goodwill and there willingness to spend time and share our burden. That is seperate from tzedaka which means giving money to the poor & organizations that help the needy in many areas. when one does an act of chesed he is acting in a G-dly manner emulating hashems ways. when on gives tzedka it is a mitzvah and commandment for us to give and to tithe reminding us that everything we have comes from g-d. one does not negate the other.

(17) Suzanne, January 11, 2012 12:55 PM

Sometimes it's "feeling personal"

Sometimes it's not about "feeling personal" about money. If I have to choose between feeding or clothing or providing medical needs for my child and giving tzedakah. I'm going to take of my child. But as a stay at home Mom, I have time. I can give time. Maybe instead of assuming that people are trying to "get out of" something, you should consider the possibility that they're trying to find a way they can do it without having to neglect other duties.

(16) Allan, January 11, 2012 11:19 AM

Not a Contest

I come away from listening to this piece by Lori Palatnik as if giving tzedakah is not just an obligation but a contest. Ok the folks in Toronto are the most generous but your community isn't. Am I mistaken in believing that giving is something that should be done with little fanfare. I'm reading the comments of those like myself who would do more if their financial situations would allow and thinking are they not in the running for the prize. If the acknowledgement of one being a good Jew is measured by their ability or lack of it in giving tzedakah then the contest rules aren't fair. When time and knowledge are the asset someone has to give when funds are low, I disagree with her when she says it's not good enough and only money counts.

(15) Sue, January 11, 2012 6:09 AM

Giving can shift secular into spiritual. Preoccupation with stress over material things, into getting pleasure in life from that which is not material in "things" Thomas Jefferson said: "The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family."

(14) Andrea, January 11, 2012 3:48 AM

You must be kidding

There are months when I run out of money before my paycheck arrives. I am barely getting by. If something happens to me, as in an illness or whatever, I am totally alone, no one in the Jewish community in Fresno will help me. Lori's opinion is a joke, but one that is evidenlty shared in the Jewish community. I thought if I gave time it would be enough. No wonder they think I am scum, because I am not a generous donor. Hey, I don't have the money. No wonder my mother walked away from the Jewish community 60 years ago - the only thing that matters is how wealthly you are and can show off how much money you can give? As I said, what a joke. Despite what people here in Fresno think, whether they like it or not, I'm a Jew even though I am broke!

Deborah Bach, January 11, 2012 9:40 AM

How wealthy you are is NOT the only thing that counts

Andrea, I'm sorry that you struggle so. I'm not even sure that Lori's answer is the only Orthodox one. I know of therapists whose Rabbis (assuming you believe those talking to me) said that they could cut their fees for needy clients and consider the difference as part of their Ma'aser money. Regardless, I think that there is no one who does all the 613 commandments perfectly. I would recommend giving at least some money sometimes to some one or some cause, even if only $1.00, because it may give YOU the feeling that you can spare that amount of money. Please don't feel rejected by the community, even if you or your mom felt that there were many snobs in the community - there must also be many quiet and humble people there. Fight for your place in the community. We are not so many that we can afford to lose YOU! We also are not so rich that we can afford to do without the donations of everyone whether they donate $1 or $1000000. I hope that your struggles will become easier!

(13) Joanne W, January 11, 2012 3:34 AM

The IRS Agrees with you, Lori

The actual dollars donated to charities, and the actual value of donated goods (food, clothing, etc) are tax deductible. But the time spent volunteering cannot be deducted or given a dollar value. Only the associated costs of the volunteering (like milage or carfare) are deductible. Even when I have had very little, I have always tried to give tzedaka, because I know there are others worse off than I. I always found that there is a reward for being generous with whatever you have and are able to give.

(12) Avraam, January 11, 2012 2:55 AM


I'm very glad about this video has close Captioning. Pls keep it up. thanks

(11) Richard Dennis, January 11, 2012 2:47 AM

Bless you, but . . .

So, what are we to do if there is no money to give? Then what? We cannot even afford to pay dues at our shul. But I publish and spend the money to print the shul's newsletter. Stamps are not free. The post office will not deliver the shul's newsletter without a stamp on it. So, guess what. I do have to pay for stamps . . . and paper to print . . . and toner to print. Bless you, Lori, but . . .

Zamira, January 11, 2012 11:30 AM

Maybe YOU are giving tzedakah

Richard, it's possible that buying these items for the newsletter may be tzedakah. I 'm not Lori nor a rabbi - ask the question - does it have to be money or....

(10) Susan, January 10, 2012 9:50 PM

I agree with Rebecca

I am very grateful that I can give at least 10% of my net income for tzedakah but I remember times when this was not possible. It is not fair to tell a person that they are not living up to G-d's expectations if they do not have enough money for the basics for their family even though they may work two or even three jobs. When I stayed home to raise my young children, I always made sure that I gave of my time to help others. Sorry Lori but on this one you missed the boat. There is no way that G-d would expect us to take the food out of the mouths of our children to give money to others. Used clothing, yes, acts of kindness yes, our time, definitely. Giving money when we have it is always a good thing. Not giving money because we don't is never a bad thing.

(9) Anonymous, January 10, 2012 8:50 PM


Thank you for captioning this!

(8) Anonymous, January 10, 2012 8:24 PM

there are cases...

I don't agree. If I gave away one dollar, I wouldn't have enough to make it through the month. God has not seen fit for me to have a job for the last three years. God has not seen fit to provide me with the money I need for basic subsistence. I'm not angry at God. I give as much as I can to my synagogue. and I volunteer a lot in my community. I give my professional expertise and I do more mundane tasks. If that did not count, my purpose for living would be taken from me and I would fall away from my Jewish roots. If I don't own a field of grain, I can't leave the corners for gleaners.

(7) Andy, January 10, 2012 3:40 PM

seems to have raised more ? than answered re tzedekeh

I agree with much of what you say and then some and not just 10-20% we are obligated to give,but all ones material wealth is from the Almighty, and we will have to account for what we did with it while it was on loan to us. That said you left many questions unanswered and may have inadvertenly given false info re certain circumstances. For example if a family makes X per year and needs to choose between more extensive Torah education or Jewish summer camp for kids and giving 10% after net income? What about the mitzvah of helping eldery parents by provideing them certain luxuries, does that come first? You did not try and explain why some communities are more giving.Is there a relation between how much they as a community have and what % they give? Is it religious education /early training that makes the difference?Another statement that confuses me was the promise that for properly fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedekah one receives reward in this world as well as the next. It would seem that if that is the case in this world it could be clearly demonstrated. If so it would be the greatest sales pitch ever.It could be proven by example that there would be only an upside to giving.

(6) smb, January 9, 2012 7:23 PM

give and receive

it might be hard to give nowadays, but when we give, we receive blessings in return

(5) Rebecca, January 8, 2012 11:24 PM

What about the unemployed?

I agree that everyone should give what they can, but there are a great many of us these days who are living on unemployment benefits that are a tiny fraction of what we used to earn. If we can barely hold on to our homes and buy food, is it wise for us to give the same percentage that the well-off have to give? In my case, I have replaced money with time. I volunteer at food pantries, do Bikkur Holim visits, etc. For special situations in the community when I hear that someone needs financial help, I donate $5 or so. That's really all I can do, and I think it's good enough for now..

(4) SusanE, January 8, 2012 6:37 PM

10% After taxes? G-d should receive your best BEFORE Taxes.

Thank you Lori for bring us this video today. I have some opinions on giving after taxes have been deducted from your income. imo G-d should receive only from the top..... not from the leftovers. If a man earns $50,000 a year and gives 10% he can live quite nicely on what is left. If a man earns $14,000. a year and gives 10%, it would seem he uses money needed for living expenses. Does G-d calculate or use a sliding scale? Yes he does! The latter who gives from his pension or minimum wage, will never go without his needs being met.~~~~~~~~~~ To those who want to count volunteer time as money, I say go to work at a job for pay, for the number of hours you would normally volunteer . Then give all that pay towards tzedekah if you really care about doing the right thing. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Why and When did giving 10% or tithing become a Cash Only transaction? Seems a bit odd. btw,....I give gladly (from the top) that money has never belonged to me.

(3) Anonymous, January 8, 2012 6:04 PM

To commenter #1: I agree with your assessment 100%. While I believe in tzedekeh, I also believe in doing what I can with what I have. If we put a percentage on tzedekeh, people might not give anything at all because they are unable to donate what is required.

(2) Rosen, January 8, 2012 3:36 PM

is giving any less than 10% not good enough?

I do donate money for tzedekah/charity, even though it may not be up to 10%. If I were to give around 3%, 5%, or 8% or so, is that not good enough from what we give from our income after taxes? Notably, the cost of living is just getting higher and higher, and doesn't the first charity or tzedekah begin at home?

(1) Alan S., January 8, 2012 10:53 AM

This video is another excellent one by Rebbitzen Palatnik. However, her question about why certain communities are more generous is really not all that confounding. Surely the two obvious basic reasons must be the general wealth of the community and how its people perceive their existence. People that "feel well off" are likelier to give. Additionally, if the people have or had a "hard scrabble" life or are eking out a sustenance, they will be less likely to give than those people that are not living pay check to pay check. Per your example,Toronto is generally known as an "affluent" city.


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