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A program of The Mussar Institute 

Generosity Week — Day 5

JEVS Human Services: Help Someone Become Self-Sufficient

Please watch JEVS Human Services 3-minute video:

Jewish Tean Funders Networks's video

Generosity is the highest of Jewish values. It is part of the mitzvah of tzedakah, often thought of as charity, but more appropriately translated as justice. Justice is about having a level playing field, about others having the same opportunities; it’s about there being a balance in the world— where everyone has a fair chance. There are many ways of being generous, from giving money to giving time. Maimonides (the “Rambam”) lists 8 different levels of tzedakah, and the highest level is helping someone be self-sufficient.

JEVS Human Services: Making hope happenThese are the levels of tzedakah from Maimonides:

8.  When donations are given grudgingly.

7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.

6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.

5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.

4. Donations when the recipient is aware of the donor’s identity, but the donor still doesn’t know the specific identity of the recipient.

3. Donations when the donor is aware to whom the charity is being given, but the recipient is unaware of the source.

2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Communal funds, administered by responsible people are also in this category.


1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or teaching them a skill, so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

Part of being human is doing what we can to help another do for themselves so that they have no need for charity.

Ways that we can help others become self-sufficient:

  1. Help a person find employment
  2. Teach a person a skill so that they can find employment
  3. Enable someone with a physical impairment to move through their world more easily


What are three things that you can do to help another person become self-sufficient? Write them down. Examine the list. What would this require of you? How could you use your time and resources?

Pick one thing from your list and do it today. Afterward, write down what you did, how it felt, and what you gave up to do it. And while you’re writing, please share your responses, experiences and insights on our Facebook page so that we might learn from one another as we build our generosity muscles.

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