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Tzedakah Box

Materials: Mahogany, Wenge & Brass 

Dimensions:         5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ x 8″ 


צדקה שבחסד | Charity within Chesed

(תלמוד בבלי, ברכות כא)

כל דבר שבקדושה לא יהא פחות מעשרה

any Thing that is Holy won’t be less than ten 

(Talmud Bavli, Brachot 21b) 

    The combination of ten has deep spiritual significance and we can see from the above passage that this union becomes a דבר, a single entity. This idea spans from the beginning of time where it says in the Mishnah of Avot (5:1), ‘With ten utterances the world was created’ and Jewish Law states (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 55) that ten men are needed to constitute a מנין|Minyan (prayer group) but the concept is further explored Kabbalisticly with the idea of combining ones right and left hand‏ (totaling ten fingers), which the Zohar says represents חסד|Expansiveness and גבורה|Restraint respectively, and to נעשה שמאל ימין|make the left into a right (תנחומא בשלח טו) and become a vessel of all חסד|Expansiveness (Bas Ayin, Parshas Nasso). 

    When giving צדקה|Tzedakah (Charity), this idea of two hands uniting to achieve this notable חסד|Chesed comes about slightly differently. In this instance, there are two people who are combining their powers to create this moment of holiness and it happens subtly when both the Giver and the Receiver extend their respective right hand, that which is characterized by חסד|Expansiveness, often translated as ‘loving kindness’ and this energy is all that is present. This union is aptly depicted in the Hebrew word ידיד|a friend, which is comprised of יד+יד, two hands.

     This concept of a double Chesed is exemplified yearly on the commencement of Sefirat Omer, a time for inner work. The first day חסד שבחסד, represents the first of the primary emotions, which can be translated as Expansiveness ‘within’ Expansiveness where Rabbi Shimon Jacobson explains, “Love is the origin and foundation of all human interactions. It is both giving and receiving... In a single word: Love is transcendence.” 

     The personification of this attribute is attributed to the first of our Patriarchs as the verse in Micah says (7:20), תתן אמת ליעקב, חסד לאברהם|You shall give truth to Yaakov, Chesed to Avraham.

Avraham is considered a new birth of mankind, in fact the Midrash tells us (Bereshit Rabbah 12:9) to rearrange the word בהבראם|When they were created to באברהם, meaning that G-d created the world for the sake of Avraham. The first two thousand years from creation were the Era of Desolation. The first ‘ten generations’ introduced the three cardinal sins and were expunged in the forty-day Deluge. But then the following ‘ten generations’ from Noach up until Avraham failed too, as it says in Avot (5:2). Avraham Avinu broke this trend at the most opportune time and established קדושה|Holiness in the world. It says next in Avot (5:3), ‘Ten trials were given to Avraham Avinu and he passed them all.’  With the emergence of Avraham, the Era of Desolation had come to an end and the Era of Torah had begun (Avodah Zarah (9a)).

[It is worthy to note that when קדושה|Holiness went dormant once again and the Jews were about to be lost forever in the fiftieth level of impurity, G-d preformed ten miracles, re-establishing this connection between heaven and earth which enabled the Jews emergence from Egypt as a nation culminating with the receiving of the Ten Commandants.]

     Avraham and Sarah ushered in this profound sacredness with their respective right hands outstretched, manifesting this double Chesed outwardly, emulating G-d as hosts to the world. The Midrash (Sefer HaYasharVayeira) relates that there were four openings to Avraham and Sarah’s tent, possibly representing their collective four hands alluding to a total embodiment of Chesed. Our forbearers understood that vessels come before the blessings and therefore ‘received’ their guests in order to ‘give.’ Ordinarily we might think of Chesed as the act of ‘giving’ and then one ‘receives’ however at its core this order is reversed. We hint at this idea thrice daily, the verse in Psalms reads (145:16) and which can be translated as

פותח את ידך, ומשביע לכל חי רצון|Open your hands and you will be satisfied with your every need.

     The Arizal teaches (Etz Chaim, Heichal A”K, anaf 2) how Hashem performed an original act of חסד|Chesed where he constricted himself in order to make room for our existence. Our sages further explain, man’s mission therefore is to search out G-d so that one can be ‘received’ and that the Almighty can then ‘bestow’ unto us, the children of Avraham, this everlasting Chesed. However, in his infinite Wisdom G-d sees into the heart of men and performs daily the ultimate act of Kindness, a חסד של אמת|True kindness (one that cannot be repaid) and constantly sustains the world reversing this order and meriting us חסד|Expansiveness first, despite the fact that many still reject him.

And because the Benevolent One knows no bounds, we are given yet a second layer of ultimate חסד, a ‘שבחסד|within Chesed’ perhaps, the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, the unique mitzvah that you can receive a return in this world. It is through these depths that our Sages (Avot 1:2) have declared Chesed as one of the pillars of the world.

     We can now begin to visualize albeit for a short time, the Mitzvah of צדקה|Charity unfolding.

It begins when the Receiver extends their right hand/palm up creating a concave void, contracting themselves making room to receive. When the Giver extends their right hand and places money into the palm of the Receiver, the tips of the fingers of the Giver are breaking the ‘plane of the hand’ of the Receiver. During this momentary transfer, the Giver is entering the Receiver’s personal space thus completing this idea of ten. While the depth of this intimate exchange can only be imagined perhaps the letter ׳ה׳, numerically equivalent to five and gifted to both אברהם and שרה ‘s names, represents the aforementioned two hands that will start this cycle once again.  

     The Tzedakah Box’s design, all of the arches, columns and details were achieved through carving alone, emulating the idea that חסד|Chesed is always present it just sometimes needs to be revealed.  The main column in the center where the Tzedakah|Charity is deposited represents Chesed|Loving Kindness a pillar of the world and the four outer columns support the angled depression on the top which symbolizes the receiver’s hand. As money is placed within the void one can observe the four sloping sides pointing towards this fifth and final plane completing this holy concept of ten.

לזכר נשמת מלכה רבקה בת דניאל

In memory of Malkah Rivkah bas Daniel

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