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Why do we give tzedakah (charity) before praying?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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Question: I see many people giving coins to Tzedakah before praying. What is the reason for this? Thank you, Dovid

Answer: Giving charity before prayer is usually referring to the established prayer times of Shacharit and Minchah.  

The source of this custom is in the Talmud (Bava Bathra 10a) "R. Eleazar used to give a coin to a poor man and afterwards pray because, he said, it is written, 'I in righteousness shall behold your face.'" The word 'righteousness' in Hebrew is "Tzedakah" which is also the word used for what we commonly call giving charity. So the word in the verse 'B'Tzedek' - "in righteousness" - suggests that we should approach G-d in prayer after giving to someone in need.

Giving tzedakah before praying reminds us that we are like a poor person standing before G-d and asking His help. When we give something to a poor person, G-d acts "measure for measure" - likewise, and does charity with us by granting our requests.

On a deeper level, Chassidic philosophy explains that when we give charity, we are giving that person life, i.e. vitality and energy - so too G-d will repay us giving us life in our prayers, that they should be filled with vitality and energy.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Charity
Mitzvot » Prayer
Daily Life » Prayer
Mitzvot » Prayer » Laws and Customs

Tzedakah
"Tzedakah," commonly translated as charity, literally means righteousness, or the right thing to do. Giving to those in need is one of the most important of G-d's commandments.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.