A ritual is defined as “a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.”
This past week we performed one of those rituals in my household. While not technically religious or solemn, it still feels like a ritual—the annual emptying of the Tzedakah boxes.
There is one that sits on my dresser that usually gets the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that are left over in my pockets at the end of the day. Its been so long, I don’t even remember where it came from. It feels like it has always been on my dresser.
There is the Tzedakah box that sits on the mantle of our fire place. It’s my favorite one; a ceramic, white ‘box’ is actually in the shape of a triangle with the coin slot up top flaring out on the bottom. The front of the ‘box’ has the Hebrew word צֶדֶק - Justice formed on the face. Someone had cast it with צֶדֶק as a relief from the body. It was a gift from our wedding, so I know exactly how long we have had it.
Then there is the Tzedakah box that sits on top of the dryer which is the recipient of those coins and dollars that I occasionally leave in my pants and Sarah misses before washing. I always know that that box will be getting filled when I hear the coins jangling in the dryer.
And there is one in the kitchen, a classic pushke (Yiddish for “a little can or container kept in the home, often in the kitchen in which money to be donated to charity is accumulated.” We ‘donate’ to the pushke before lighting Shabbat candles.
I gathered the boxes on the den table and then went to emptying them. One was easy - it had a hinge on the top. All I had to do was open and pour. The second one had a rubber plug - also easy to open, but the size of the hole was just over the size of a quarter—not so easy, and there were a few bills in the box blocking the opening. The other two had to be opened by prying a metal plug with a screwdriver. In the end, we dumped it all on the table and set to separating the quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies.
Once we had them all separated and counted there was $167.22, not our biggest year, but not bad. It’s amazing what happens when you empty your pockets.
I asked, Sarah, “Who do you want to give this to?” Her response was immediate,
“Give it to the Federation campaign.”
So, I packed up all the change, got a bag to carry it and brought it in to the office when something occurred to me. “What about the office Tzedakah box…that had some change too?”
I cherish the one in my office. It was given to me by Sherry Dolgoff. In her ‘later days’ she was cleaning up many of the things around her home when she pulled this can from one of her closets. It was a UJA (United Jewish Appeal) can from a Community Campaign in the 60s. The message on it is handtyped on a piece of paper and taped around the can and says:
I added the coins from my special Tzedakah can to our Annual Campaign contribution.
We hope that you’ll all do the same and add the contents of your Tzedakah boxes to your Annual Community Campaign pledge and gift.
There is no one else
We must accept the challenge
We are one!!