It is believed in Judaism that spiritual leaders, or Rebbes, are to serve as role models for the wider population. By imitating the ways of leaders, we believe that we can achieve a closer relationship with G-d. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was and continues to be even after his passing, a role model for his followers and for the general Jewish population.
If we are interested in learning about the importance of giving charity, it is interesting to look at how he related to the subject. The following anecdotes shed some light on how central the act of giving charity is and should be in the lives of Jewish people.
- In the early seventies, Israel was rocked by several terrorist attacks. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was known for being concerned about the physical and spiritual well-being of Jews world-wide and as a result of the attacks he advised Jews everywhere to be more diligent in their observation of certain Mitzvot that are known for providing physical protection.
One of the Mitzvot that the Rebbe called for people to do more of was that of Tzedakah, loosely translated as giving charity. We learn from the Talmud that the act of Tzedakah can protect from physical harm, elongate life and protect not only the giver but all of the people. The Rebbe drew a comparison between giving Tzedakah and wearing a helmet; a helmet will not necessarily save one but will greatly increase one’s chances.
The Rebbe encouraged giving out charity boxes so that Jewish people would have one in every home and would then be constantly reminded by the box to give charity. The Rebbe spoke of the importance of giving charity on a daily basis.
- In 1987 the Rebbe rallied for all Jewish families to make their homes a place of “Torah, Prayer and Charity”- the three pillars that the world stands on according to the Sages. How so? By setting aside a niche in each child’s room that would serve as a “mini-sanctuary”. It would hold a Siddur, Torah book and charity box. The Rebbe recommended that the child (ren) spend a few minutes each day there, putting a penny in the box, saying a prayer and learning Torah.
- In 1988 the Rebbe recommended that Jewish women place a charity box in their kitchen and in the merit of the charity they would give there, G-d would oversee their cooking and baking and through this they would not fall in Kashrut issues and would succeed to prepare tasty food.
- In 1989 the Rebbe suggested that each educational institution give each and every student a coin on a weekly basis to give to charity. He also recommended that employers do the same with their workers. These suggestions were for non-Jews and Jews alike as the Rebbe saw the practice of giving charity as something universal.