A pushke is a collection box. Coins were put in and when full the money would be donated to a worthy cause and the collection would start again.
Although I think pushkes were a Jewish thing, giving in some form or another is part of most peoples’ lives and certainly not specific to any religion. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t try to teach their kids about compassion and charity. I think, though, that the times that we give are sometimes specific to us and the way we were raised. Sometimes adding coins to the tin box felt like a superstitious ritual. In times of good luck, Nana would be sure to drop a coin into the pushke. In retrospect I think this served a moral purpose as well; to ground us and add perspective to good times. A “there but for the grace of G-d” type thing.
Although not through a tin box, giving was always tied to memorable occasions as well. When there’s a bar mitzvah, wedding, birth, even funeral, it’s traditional to give to a favorite charity in the name of the person you’re honoring.
I don’t know when the pushke became extinct but as far as I know it is. I haven’t seen one in many years. The value of giving, of course, lives on, but mostly in check form these days. And we also give our time and energy, even our blood and platelets. Tzedakah, the act of giving is seen as an obligation in Judaism and in many other faiths as well. And now, in place of the pushke, I do sometimes see tzedakah boxes.
I believe that the values we want our children to incorporate into their lives; honesty, sharing, healthy eating, giving, they all have the capacity to become a habit if introduced early enough. But how do you explain some of these concepts to young ones?
When the boys were almost 3 and 4, I took them to one of those pottery places where you purchase the pottery, paint it there (ha, genius, leave your mess for someone else) and they glaze and fire it for you. We bought tzedakah boxes, lots of them. There would be one for each of the boys, one for my husband and I, and holiday gifts for all the grandparents and even for my Nana, their great-grandmother.
The boys sat down with a line of pottery and paints and paint brushes and went at it. I made sure each “box” was worked on by both of the boys. I then painted the word Tzedakah on the front and put their names and the date on the bottom. They came out exactly as you’d expect them to, having been painted by two toddlers I don’t need to tell you that I loved them.
Holiday time came and the boys got to give a gift representative of the philosophy of giving.
our tzedakah boxes
If you know my boys at all, it won’t surprise you to learn that one of them has his box full to the brim and will most likely get around to emptying it when I tell him to. The other’s box is somewhere in his room under all the debris, I’m sure.
And mine, I know exactly where mine is. Because this box is not just a means to giving and it’s not just a reminder that tzedakah should start early, but it is a valued piece of art; a true treasure box in every sense of the word.
Ingredients, Crust (can be replaced with any graham cracker or chocolate pie crust:
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup matzo meal
2 TBSP matzo cake meal
1 tsp instant coffee granules
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup matzo cake meal (can be replaced with 3/4 cup flour)
*In a food processor, pulse all crust ingredients until it starts to form a ball. Place into a 10 inch pie plate and evenly pat into the bottom and up the sides. Refrigerate while making pie.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
*Melt the chocolate chips and stir until completely smooth.
*Beat the butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate chips. Mix in the matzo cake meal (or flour if using).
*Pour into the pie crust and even the filling out. Bake for 45 minutes. Top will crack and inside will be fudgy.
*Cool completely. Store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for serving.