Tzedakah, which is most commonly translated as “charity,” has its roots in the word for “justice” or “righteousness.” Jewish tradition teaches that giving tzedakah is a religious imperative, even for those who have little to give. It is customary to place money in a tzedakah box just prior to Shabbat, holidays and other special occasions. Keeping a tzedakah box at home facilitates this practice and teaches children the value of this mitzvah (divine obligation). In fact, some households make a monthly or yearly family project of determining which worthy cause will be the recipient of their tzedakah.
Tzedakah boxes (Yiddish: pushke) are available in a variety of sizes and styles from exceedingly plain to ornately decorative. The concept of hidur mitzvah (adorning or beautifying the mitzvah) teaches that whenever possible, one should seek to carry out mitzvot in joyful and beautiful ways. Many tzedakah boxes are works of art and make appropriate gifts for celebrating lifecycle events. They can be purchased in synagogue and retail Judaica shops, as well as online. Tzedakah boxes also are available from specific organizations that distribute empty boxes, later collecting the boxes and any funds that are in them. The Jewish National Fund—and its iconic blue and white tzedakah boxes—is perhaps the best known of these organizations.