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Tzedakah is a Hebrew word most commonly translated as charity, though it is based on a root meaning justice (צדק). In Judaism, tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to perform charity, and philanthropic acts, which Judaism emphasises are important parts of living a sufficiently sacred life; Jewish tradition argues that the second highest form of tzedakah is to anonymously give donations to unknown recipients. Unlike philanthropy, which is completely voluntary, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation, which must be performed regardless of financial standing, and must even be performed by the poor; tzedakah is considered to be one of the three main acts that grant forgiveness of sin, and the annulment of bad decrees (alms in Matthew 6:1-4, prayer in Matthew 6:5-15 and fast in Matthew 16-18).

According to the Torah, farmers should leave the corners of their fields unharvested, and they should not attempt to harvest any left-overs that had been forgotten when they had harvested the majority of a field (Leviticus 19:9; Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19). On one of the two occasions that this is mentioned by the Torah, it adds that, in vineyards, some grapes should be left ungathered (Leviticus 19:10), olive trees should not be beaten on multiple occasions, and whatever remains from the first set of beatings should be left (Deuteronomy 24:20). According to the Torah, these things should be left for the poor and for strangers (Leviticus 19:10; Leviticus 23:22).

In practice, most Jews carry out tzedakah by donating a portion of their income to charitable institutions, or to a needy person that they may encounter; the perception among many modern day Jews is that if donation of this form is not possible, the obligation of tzedakah still requires that something is given. Special acts of tzedakah are performed on significant days; at weddings, Jewish brides and bridegrooms would traditionally give to charity, to symbolise the sacred character of the marriage; at Passover, a major holiday in Jewish tradition, it is traditional to be welcoming towards hungry strangers, and feed them at the table; at Purim, in Orthodox Judaism, it is considered obligatory for every Jew to give food to two other people, in an amount that would equate to a meal each, for the purpose of increasing the total happiness during the month.