Sacred Giving: Why? (Private-Religious)

6, 7, 8

Learners will develop an understanding of the differences between the secular concepts of charity and philanthropy and the Jewish concept of tzedakah.

PrintOne-Fifty Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define the words charity, philanthropy, and tzedakah.
  • compare and contrast the words charity, philanthropy, and tzedakah.
  • Road maps, road signs, computer-generated map directions, map search sites, samples of Jewish texts
  • Copies of the Torah or Genesis 18:16-19 (Both Hebrew and English texts recommended)
  • Attachment One: Sacred Giving: The Root
  • Attachment Two: Sacred Giving: Idea Exchange
  • Kohlenberger, John R. III (editor). Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Regency Reference Library, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI. 1993. ISBN: 978-0310402008


  1. Anticipatory Set:Display any number of the following items: road maps, road signs, computer-generated directions, and/or map-search sites, along with Jewish texts (books or single pages). Ask learners what these items have in common. (Each item offers a method to determine one’s direction, either literally traveling on a physical road or on the road of life!)

  2. Distribute copies of the Torah or copies of Genesis 18:16-19, in both Hebrew and English.

  3. Teacher Note: Interlinear Hebrew-English is the most desirable.(See Biographical Reference)

  4. Ask learners to determine, based on the text, what are the “ways of God” that the Jewish people are to follow. (The text defines the “ways of God” as doing what is just and right; doing tzedakah.)

  5. Distribute Attachment One: Sacred Giving: The Root. The learners might work in pairs to complete the task.

  6. Summarize the learners’ findings in discussion.Record their comments on a class size version of Attachment One: Sacred Giving: The Root.

  7. Teacher Note: While all three concepts share the idea of humanity’s participation in the world around them, both charity and philanthropy are based on caring and goodwill. Tzedakah, on the other hand, is a religious obligation, not dependent upon an individual’s choice.

    In the Hebrew language the closest word to philanthropy is tzedakah.  While the word is used interchangeably for charity, tzedakah is seen as a form of social justice provided by the donor as well as those who utilize the support to do their work and those who allow the support into their lives.  As is the case with justice, this critical social responsibility cannot be done to someone – rather, it must be done with someone. In Hebrew, the word meaning "to give" is Natan. In Hebrew and in English, the word can be read forward and backward, so when we think about philanthropy and idea of “to give” it is also about “to receive.”
    So much more than a financial transaction, philanthropy in the spirit of tzedakah builds trusting relationships and recognizes contributions of time, effort, and insight. 
  8. Distribute Attachment Two: Sacred Giving: Idea Exchange allowing time for the learners to complete the attachment comparing and contrasting the three words. Have the learners share and discuss their responses.


Use the learners’ completion of Attachment Two: Sacred Giving: Idea Exchange as an assessment to check their understanding of tzedakah.

Cross Curriculum 

A field trip to a Jewish Community Center to see examples of tzedakah in daily Jewish living could be scheduled. Speakers from the Jewish Federation could also be invited into the classroom to speak to the learners about tzedakah.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Compare and contrast philanthropy and charity from Greek and Roman traditions and other cultures.