Rambam's Ladder: A Meditation on Generosity and Why It is Necessary to Give

by Julie Salamon. Workman Publishing, 2003.

This carefully written book by bestselling author Julie Salamon is written within a Jewish perspective but an excellent resource for virtually anyone interested in the question of generosity. Following the horror of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, Salamon began asking questions about the different kinds of responses particularly by those who offered both financial and volunteer assistance. And those who received assistance. Deeper consideration led her to the work of twelfth-century physician, philosopher and scholar, Maimonides, or “Rambam” as he is casually referred to. Rambam devised a ladder of generosity. This work is a meditation on the ladder. The ladder has eight rungs and describes response to the needs of others from the highest to the lowest. The highest rung is identified as the giver who helps a poor person become self-sufficient. The lowest rung represents those who will give but only grudgingly. In between are other steps: proportion, solicitation, shame, boundaries, corruption, and anonymity. Each leads to deeper reflection.