Part One: The Tzedakah Checking Account is a Brilliant Life Hack
When you get a paycheck or direct deposit from your employer you are grateful. Baruch Hashem, thank God! You’re also keenly aware that you have a dozen things to pay off. After all the bills are paid, there is money you are saving for retirement or paying off debts. Lastly, you also want to show gratitude for your livelihood; give tzedakah to help those in need; support important causes in the community, and ensure that community organizations your care about are thriving.
How can you make sure to take care of all your expenses and do all that? Thanks to modern banking the issue is made easy. One of the “Jewish life hacks” that I learned after we were married was setting up a Tzedakah Checking account. Thanks to that “hack”, giving tzedakah became easier and a regular part of our lives.
The Tzedakah Checking Account Explained
Here is how the basic idea works, though there certainly could be other ways of doing this.
Every month, on the day of a direct deposit, or a day that you know you will have income, you create an automatic transfer from your main checking account into your Tzedakah account. (You don’t need to be married to start a new checking account to handle your tzedakah, you can set it up anytime.)
When you separate money from your paycheck to give to tzedakah, called tithing or in Hebrew “maaser kesafim”, you are also doing a major mitzvah. Just as there is a mitzvah obligation in Eretz Yisrael to tithe from the produce of our field, there is a mitzvah obligation to tithe from our earnings.
How much you spend on auto-payments for online services
When you review your bank or credit card statements you will feel good. You have apportioned part of your earnings for something that will make the world a better place.
At a later time I can write more about how much a person should or is allowed to give as maaser; what constitutes tzedakah, maaser, chesed, etc. For this first installment of the series on Spiritual Investments, the most important part of this hack is to set up a separate account if you don’t have one already.
Once you have your new account set up for your maaser, it makes giving tzedakah every month much easier. We use that account for writing checks and link it a credit card. You can link monthly payments to your shul, your favorite chesed organizations, etc.
May Hashem give you the opportunity to invest heavily in your spiritual advancement, and may you never be lacking in your material needs.
P.S. – It is always better to give tzedakah regularly, than wait to give it all at once!
Rabbi Yonah Bookstein is Deanna and Allen Alevy Family Rabbi in Community Outreach at Pico Shul • Shabbat Tent • Center for Jewish Life & Learning