Summary Lesson 38: “In Mine Own Way”
- Original Meaning of Faith Includes Works: The Hebrew word for faith is emunah probably derived from the word imun which means practice, procedure or work. Inherent in the word emunah is faith and works. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:17) The three attributes of God-fearing people are faith (emunah), hope (tikvah) and charity (zedakah) or (hesed). Judaism has, however, evolved to the point that immun (practice or works) has become more important than belief.
- Charity is Loving Kindness: “Although the idea of charity (Zedekah) and almsgiving is spread throughout the whole of the Bible, there is no special term for it. The term hesed (‘loving-kindness’), which is (also) used widely in the Bible, has taken on the meaning of physical aid, or lending money without interest. “Everybody is obliged to give charity; even one who himself is dependent on charity should give to those less fortunate than himself. To give a tenth of one’s wealth to charity is considered to be a ‘middling’ virtue, to give a 20th or less is to be ‘mean’; but the rabbis decided that one should not give more than a fifth lest he become impoverished himself and dependent on charity.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
- Stages of Charity: “Maimonides lists ways of giving zedakah which are progressively more virtuous: to give (1) but sadly; (2) less than is fitting, but in good humor; (3) only after having been asked to; (4) before being asked; (5) in such a manner that the donor does not know who the recipient is, (6) in such a manner that the recipient does not know who the donor is; and (7) in such a way that neither the donor nor the recipient knows the identity of the other.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)
- Justice and Mercy: “The Hebrew word for justice is zedek, and indicative of Judaism’s attitude is the fact that another form of the same root zedakah, means ‘charity.’ For justice must be tempered with mercy and indeed the main attribute of God is His integration of justice and mercy. Yet another Hebrew word derived from the same root is zaddik, which means ‘righteous.’ The righteous man is one who is both just and merciful.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)