Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Shabbat and Righteous Giving: A Tzedakah Box for All Times

“Oh, look, mom,” I heard a young congregant say to her mother.  “There’s a beautiful tzedakah box on the wall over there, and it seems very lonely…and very hungry.  Can we give tzedakah on Shabbat?”

“Of course, sweetheart.  The Rabbi said it was all right.”

And it is.  And you should.

Because of the generosity of Roger Brown, one of our congregants, we have a beautifully crafted tzedakah box affixed to the wall outside our sanctuary.  Whenever one enters the building – whether for services, religious school, meetings, or social gatherings – now one can donate a little or a lot to the organization or cause that we have selected that month.

One of the concerns raised was whether it was permitted to give money on Shabbat.  That is, some might ask, would it be permissible to carry funds to Temple, to bring them into the building, and then to deposit them after sundown on Friday and before sundown on Saturday?

My answer is yes, simply stated.  As a liberal movement, we do not disparage the carrying of money – or the giving of tzedakah – on Shabbat, or sneer at those who spend money on Shabbat for the purpose of ‘enjoying the day.’  The opposite is more true!

The giving of tzedakah, or the enjoyment of other activities that elevate the soul and relax the body, is the true aim of Shabbat.  If one goes out into the world and finds ways to recreate oneself on this most blessed day of rest, she or he is to be doubly praised.  Going to the cinema, eating out at a restaurant with friends or family, riding a bicycle 40 miles there and back, paying an entrance fee at a local amusement park or state campsite for recreational use:  All of these are valid and crucial ways to spend the Shabbat day.

The purpose of Shabbat is to bring to the soul a feeling of rest, completeness, and peace.  These are the goals that we should affix to the day of the Sabbath.  I wish us all success in this important endeavor.