- I have a theory to explain it. Between the two individuals, the giver and receiver, that act is one of chessed and not justice. Tzedaka from the micro perspective is indeed a misnomer. But from a national perspective it is a form of justice.
- The Torah is absolutely concerned with the redistribution of wealth, in order to minimize the gap between rich and poor. This can be seen in the forgiving of loans and canceling of indentured servitude in the shemita year, and also the resetting of land ownership in the Yovel year. This leveling process is apparently described as tzedaka, because charity is a means of ensuring equal opportunity and access to all citizens. That makes it a central concern of social justice.
- When individuals give charity, that is chessed. When a nation takes care of its weakest members and makes sure that they share in all of its blessings as equally as possible, that is justice.
- It seems like an obvious answer. Why did this seem odd to us in the first place? Perhaps the cold war left many of us in the West in general, and America in particular, disturbed by socialist implications. This is so even when pursuing what Judaism considers social justice. As Jews, we should be wary of movements and ideologies that don't argue for the justice that is charity.
Jeremiah Chapter 71 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: 2 Stand in the gate of the LORD'S house, and proclaim there this word, and say: Hear the word of the LORD, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the LORD. 3 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Trust ye not in lying words, saying: 'The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, are these.' 5 Nay, but if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute justice between a man and his neighbor; 6 if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt; 7 then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.
ה,ט [י] ארבע מידות באדם: האומר שלי שלי, ושלך שלך--זו מידה בינונית; ויש אומרין, זו מידת סדום. שלי שלך, ושלך שלי--עם הארץ. שלי שלך, ושלך שלך--חסיד. שלך שלי, ושלי שלי--
P.S. Am I the only one who thinks that ornate and expensive tzedaka boxes are vaguely distasteful?