Egoism and Altruism in Judaism



The dictionary definition for egoism is: an ethical theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of morality. The definition for altruism is: his belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. However what does these two words mean to me as a Jew and where does tzedaka fit into all of this.

I believe that every single person does this out of the goodness of their heart as well as they won’t say no if they get a reward for doing it, you do a nice thing for someone and at the same time you get something in return. The Rumbam says “It is forbidden, however, to let a poor man who asks for charity go empty handed, just so you give him at least one dry fig, as it is said, O let not the oppressed turn back into confusion.” This is a very altruistic saying. It says that you must never let a poor man go without food or a small sum of money. We as people love to find short cuts, ways for us to bend the rules a bit.  The Rumbam says we should give with an open hand and give out of the goodness of our heart however in our days we never know where our money goes to. Does it really go to his children or does it go towards drugs and alcohol? That is a question that is asked far too often but we were told to give no questions asked.

Here is where the Midrash has found a short cut. Rabbi Abbahu in the name of Eliezer said: we ought to be grateful to the impostors, since were it not for the impostors among the poor, then if any of them begged from a person who refused, the latter would immediately incur the penalty of death; for it says, And he cries unto Lord against you, and it is considered to be a sin, and it further says, The soul that sins, it shall die. This source tells us that if it wasn’t for all the people in the world who are fakes and impostors, we as Jews wouldn’t have a reason not to give money to a poor person. Isn’t that statement a total egotistical answer: if it wasn’t for those people I would have to give to every one? The answer is both yes. Hashem has given us what we need and a little bit more of those people that He hopes we will help. However in the times that we live in today, with the economy not being so steady and far too many people on the street who are too lazy to go and find a job as a toilet cleaner, we need a lea way, an opportunity to not give money some someone who we feel will use the money in an inappropriate way.

Judaism is in the middle, between egoism and altruism. There are different people in this world and we all have different personalities. Judaism accommodates for all types of people. The people who need something in return. This does not mean that they need money back or anything material, this might mean that after they give money to a charity they feel good; they have that feeling in their stomach telling them that they did a good thing. For other people is it just the knowledge that their religion is behind them all the way.

Every single one of us is neither an egotistical people nor an altruistic person and Judaism shows us that. It shows us that by you giving charity you will get points upstairs however you will also get the knowledge that you have helped keep a person alive for another day. Some money and a smile can go a long way.


1 Comment »

  1. Jason Said:

    Do you think I should post what I have written on my website and not just computer stuff I have done, like programs or articles on how to fix your pc or other pc stuff?

{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: