Rebranding Tzedakah: From Charity to Sacred Spending

By Danny Nevins

The third paragraph of birkat hamazon, the prayer after eating, presents an odd conflation of concerns. Opening with a petition for divine mercy toward Israel, its people, capital, temple, and monarchy, the prayer veers into an anxious plea to escape material dependence on other mortals: “Do not make us dependent upon the gifts of people, nor on their loans, but only on Your full, bountiful, and capacious hand, that we not be ashamed or humiliated forever.” Without even the slightest bridging attempt, the prayer then returns to its initial theme, asking that God rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem speedily in our day. What is the middle passage about financial insecurity doing in a prayer about Jerusalem?