From the Talmud: Shabbat 63
Rabbi Abba said: One who lends money to the poor is greater than one who just gives it. And one who forms a partnership is the greatest of all.
Rashi explains that lending money to the poor is greater than one who just gives it because it sets up the situation where the poor man is not ashamed to borrow. He also says that lending is better perhaps because one generally lends a larger sum than he would give as charity, and that may suffice to make the poor man independent.
Maimonides categorized the statements about tzedakah and help in the Talmud. He stated that there are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.
8. Giving begrudgingly
7. Giving less than you should however giving cheerfully
6. Giving face-to-face after being asked
5. Giving face-to-face before being asked
4. Giving when you do not know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient knows your identity
3. Giving when you know the recipient’s identity, but the recipient doesn’t know your identity
2. Giving when neither party knows the other’s identity. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven.
1. Lending money, creating a partnership, or finding him a job to remove the need
Tzedakah is our obligation. Even the poor are not excused from giving tzedakah. Tzedakah is mistranslated as charity which is the benevolent goodwill toward the poor. The root of Tzedakah is justice, righteousness or fairness. By giving tzedakah or lending to the poor we are doing what is right and what is necessary to repair the world.
We are taught that we should not be embarrassed to receive tzedakah if we need it. We should also be humble and accept whatever job is available for us if we are out of work.
We all need to play our part to make sure our world has justice. Give tzedakah on a regular basis to make it a habit. When the opportunity comes, we should help find jobs for those that do not have one. And if we are so fortunate, we should hire those who need a job. On the recipient side we need to accept money or a job with humility as well as pay forward the opportunity.
If we do these acts of tzedakah and lending to the poor, we will strengthen our communities. We will make people feel like they are part of the community and want to help others. If we lend money and find jobs for people they will be able to support themselves. Hopefully these people will feel the need to help others that end up jobless like they once were.