On the High Holy Days we ask God to “write us in the Book of Life.” We are told that God keeps track of us, and compares all the good we have done during the past year, with what we should not have done. The Unetaneh Tokef prayer – the one which says, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed, who shall live and who shall die,” reminds us at then end that there are ways to make up for our bad behavior: U’tshuva, utfillah, utzedakah, – But Repentence, Prayer and Tzedakah temper judgment’s severe decree.
This morning I would like to focus on the Tzedakah part of this phrase. Tzedakah is often translated as “Charity” but it means much more than that. It comes from the word Tzedek which means “righteousness” or “righteous one”. In Judaism, tzedakah is not an option. It is not something we do if we feel like it. It is a mitzvah – which is more than a good deed.
Mitzvah means “commandment.” God commands us to do tzedakah – because it is the right thing to do.In the story of creation, which we will read tomorrow morning, it says, “On the seventh day God finished the work that God had been doing, and ceased on the,seventh day from all the work that God had done.”
If we pay careful attention to the words, it doesn’t say that God is done creating the world. It just says that God is done with what God had been working on at the moment. The Rabbis tell us that God intentionally left some of the work undone so we could be partners with God in the work of creation. We work together with God to make the world a better place.
When God created Adam, God created him “in God’s image.” God also realized that Adam should not be alone, and created Eve. This tells us that living for yourself, is only half a life. We were meant to be with, and do for others. If everyone is created in God’s image, we honor the image of God in others by helping them. Helping others does more than help them. It helps us to feel God’s presence in our own lives.