Between the presidential election and our beloved UConn Huskies, percentages are an inescapable feature of this season's news cycle. And they are very valuable tools: Percentages give us perspective and help us to be more structured and objective in the way we view and interpret the world around us.
This Shabbat, we read from the portion Ki Tavo, which continues the story of how the Israelites transitioned from a mass of former slaves into a nation of tribes united by a set of moral and ethical principles that became the bedrock of Western civilization.
Just a few generations out from slavery, the Israelites are commanded to share the goodness of their bounty with both the Levites and all those less fortunate - namely "the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow." In addition, the Torah directs them to "set aside in full the tenth part of your yield."
That's right: We were directed to tithe 10% of our bounty to help those less fortunate. The Levites were excluded from this directive only because of their exclusive role supporting the priest and the entire community without the benefit of land ownership. The rest of the community was expected to support the Levites so that they could support and care for others.
While percentages come and go, the responsibility of attending to community needs hasn't changed. In this respect, philanthropy in ancient Israel was much easier: You knew exactly how much to give and to whom.
Today our giving is driven by donor choice, expectation of positive impact, and personal meaning. We also hope that charitable giving is driven by the individual desire to perform a mitzvah, a good deed that enhances our self-worth and that strengthens our connection to the Jewish community.
That's where the Federation comes in. We are here to help you make mitzvahs. If you are looking for an impactful way to support the neediest, to ensure our children's Jewish education, and to address growing humanitarian needs of our brothers and sisters in Israel, the former Soviet Union and Africa, you have come to the right place.
Our community continues to carry out the ancient commandment to give; it is embedded in our hearts and souls. And we are a tremendous force for good.
In closing - speaking of percentages - we at the Federation are 100% grateful to each and every one of you who allow us to be the recipient of your mitzvah.
Todah rabah and Shabbat shalom.
President and CEO
Photo credit: 2015 Jonathan Levine/Jewish Federations of North America