Eight Degrees of Charity

Consider what is going on all around us. Can our overall existence be one huge act of charity?

In one of his many teachings, the great 12th century Talmudist, physician, philosopher and communal leader, Mimonidies, describes how in charity, there are eight different levels.

Here is an abbreviated version, from the lowest to the highest.

1. When a person gives even unwillingly. 

2. One who gives parsimoniously but does so with a smile

3. Giving after being asked.

4. Giving directly to the person in need without waiting to be asked.

5. When the giver does not know who the recipient is but the recipient knows who the donor is

6. When one gives and the recipient does not know who the donor is.

7. Total anonymity; Giving to the poor without knowing who the precise recipient is, and without the recipient knowing who the "donor" is.

8. Giving someone a job. Or entering into a partnership, so his/her hand will be strengthened to succeed autonomously.

Consider what is going on all around us. Can our overall existence be one huge act of charity?

For example, 20,000 species of bees pollinate most of the 225,000 different flower plants on the planet. To entice the bees to cross-pollinate, plants offer them their sweet nectar, which, in turn, the bees transform into honey – their only food source.

This is but a small example from the wondrous ways of nature and our reality. Indeed it seems that “charity” is an underlying principle in the system of our universe. Each creature has its sustenance placed before it in a profound way.

Perhaps Maimonides’s distinctions of charity can be applied to the most enigmatic gift of all, humanity.

For example, there are human beings that benefit from the gift (charity) of life, but currently find themselves receiving at the lowest rung of "charity" sadly, living life in a state of feeling unworthy or unwanted.

And the other end of the spectrum are those recipients who receive the gift of life with the same joy and hope as one who receives a new job or partnership opportunity. Indeed the ultimate partnership with the very gift of life, love and light is when we become givers ourselves!

Being the highest level recipient, is unique to humans. Animals for example, can only partner to a small degree. But us humans, in terms of the great possibilities gifted to us, when we perform random acts of goodness and kindness, we get to become "partners" with the source of life itself! 

What a gift! ! 

Shabbat Shalom!

Bob Perkins DDS June 09, 2012 at 02:11 AM
great stuff, as always, Rabbi! I have a friend (Malibu resident Harold Mintz) who gave one of his kidneys to an anonymous recipient. That might be #9, giving your body parts to save the life of a stranger. That is pretty incredible! #6 is great and it is linked with total selflessness, but I think #4 has it's merits. Here is why: the direct contact of the giver and the recipient can be profound...just knowing the great deeds of others can be inspiring..like the deed of my friend, Harold. A few years ago a former basketball player at USC donated money to build the basketball floor....he did it under the condition that his name would never be revealed, and that he could donate the floor in honor of a fellow teammate who he felt deserved some recognition. Awesome stuff!
Bob Perkins DDS June 09, 2012 at 02:15 AM
"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire" - the Talmud
Rabbi Levi Cunin June 11, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Thank so much Dr. Perkins for sharing Harold’s story with us. Indeed, science has made great strides since the time of Maimonides… Donating a kidney? Who would have ever imagined the possibility! I think it probably goes into a category of its own, since donating a kidney carries with is risks to the donor that does not exist in the other forms of charity.


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