Tzedakah Begins at Home (Private-Religious)
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
    2. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
    3. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.

This lesson focuses on eight levels of tzedakah (charity) that were identified by a great Jewish thinker known as Rabbi Moses Maimonides. Students will investigate various ways to give charity and gain an appreciation of how people give of their time, talent or treasure. They will create their own tzedakah box to begin collecting money at home. 

PrintOne - Forty-five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • identify eight levels of tzedakah (charitable giving).
  • role-play scenarios that demonstrate how to give each type of charity.
  • create a tzedakah box to take home.
  • Student copies of Attachment One: Summary of Laws of Giving
  • Poster board: draw a ladder with eight wide rungs on it
  • Note cards: enough to make one set of eight laws for every three students plus one set for the teacher (See Attachment Two: Eight Levels of Tzedakah)
  • One small container with a lid for each student (such as found in the sandwich bag area of the grocery store); Cut a slit in the lids large enough for coins
  • Permanent markers
Home Connection: 

Send home the tzedakah box for each family to use to collect money.Send home a note describing the charity you have selected for the group donation.Set a deadline for bringing in money. Encourage families to find ways for their children to earn money to put in the tzedakah box.Ask students to give periodic updates of their families’ progress.


For charities that strive to make others self-sufficient:

  1. Anticipatory Set:Ask each student to describe something that one might give to a poor person.Encourage students to go beyond material objects.Make a list of ideas on the board.

  2. Ask the students to think of different ways to “deliver” these items to a poor person, such as anonymously, in person, over the phone, through an organization, etc. (This may be very difficult for students. Make a list on the board next to the first list.)

  3. Tell students that a rabbi named Maimonides (also known as “RaMBa”M) made a list of eight different ways that a person can give charity.He put the ways in order from the most to the least generous way to give.(Keep in mind that all giving is better than not giving.)

  4. Arrange students into groups of three and give each group a set of eight note cards. Each card has one of the eight levels of charity written on it.Cards should be in the order listed on Attachment Two: Eight Levels of Tzedakah.

  5. Read through the cards as a class and allow students to ask clarification questions regarding the meaning of the levels.

  6. Ask the students to manipulate the cards with their group to predict the order of the levels as written by Maimonides.Meanwhile, place your set of cards in the correct order on the ladder.Place them upside down so the students can’t read them yet. Attachment Three: Ladder of the Eight Levels of Tzedakah

  7. Call up each group one at a time to place their note cards on the ladder, putting the highest form of giving at the top.Have them explain their reasoning as they place them on the ladder.

  8. When all groups have posted their cards, turn over your cards and distribute copies of Attachment One: Summary of Laws of Giving.

  9. Talk about the order of Maimonides’s giving levels.Discuss why he might have chosen the priorities as he did. Have the students think of specific giving examples for each level. Role-play examples, if appropriate.

  10. Explain that they are going to participate in a simple tzedakah project. Each child will make a tzedakah box to take home. Each family may collect money for a charity that offers loans to low-income people to help them become self-sufficient (see Bibliographical References). Discuss of what level of charity this is an example of.

  11. Give the plastic containers and markers to the students.The assignment is to illustrate the eight different levels of tzedakah on the sides of the box.Note: Permanent markers stain clothing. Remind students to use the markers carefully.

  12. When the students finish decorating the boxes, have them show their designs to the rest of the class and explain how they represented each level.


Assess students based on how well their symbols and illustrations reflect an understanding of the text.Also assess students based on teacher observations and participation in discussions.