Maimonides, often called by his acronym RaMBaM (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon), was a 12th century Jewish scholar and physician. He wrote a code of Jewish law, the Mishnah Torah, based on the Rabbinic oral tradition. I have always considered Rambam’s timeless Ladder of Tzedakah the last word on charitable giving. He¬†organized eight levels of tzedakah (charity, or good deeds) into a “ladder” from the least to the most honorable: 

8. (the lowest form of charity) When donations are given grudgingly.

7. When one gives less than s/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. When the recipient is aware of the donor’s identity, but the donor does not know the identity of the recipient.

3. When the donor is aware of the recipient’s identity, but the recipient is unaware of the source.

2. When the donor and recipient are unknown to each other.

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 establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

You have to admit that’s great stuff. Part of what I am trying to accomplish for myself during the upcoming month is to suspend for a few weeks what I have come to believe about giving, do it in a very different way and see what happens.

I am getting some very helpful suggestions and I hope you will keep them coming. “Make sure you give it to at least one person that you really don’t want to give it to!” “Make sure you give it at least once to someone who looks like they don’t need it! At all!” Thinking I know what need looks like is one of the things I most want to explore.

Thanks for the wonderful, thoughtful and generous comments.

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