The Midrash Tanchuma in the beginning of Parshas Ha'azinu describes the great benefits to the neshamah when tzedakah is given on its behalf. For a full discussion, see The Neshamah Should Have an Aliyah, pp. 75-82.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, in one of his lectures (Tape e120) discusses the fact that often, as time passes, we begin to forget the departed. Rav Miller underscores the importance of not forgetting and continuing to be mechabed (honor) our departed parents throughout our lives, and he goes on to discuss a number of things that we can and should do on their behalf.
One beautiful (and simple) suggestion utilizes the mitzvah of tzedakah as a means of honoring our departed parents. He says: "There are all kinds of ways [to continue honoring your parents]. First we'll talk about the most poshute, simple, way ..." He suggests we make a habit of dropping a coin into the tzedakah box every day in memory of a departed parent. (You can certainly do the same for a grandparent or for any neshamah you would like to generate zechusim (merits) for). In Rav Miller's words, "You are doing a tremendous benefit for [them]." In describing the power of such a simple act, Rav Miller says, "Moshe Rabbeinu -- if he could come back to this world to drop a [coin] in the tzedakah box -- he'd give almost anything for that ... Therefore, when [someone] wants to honor his mother and his father ... he takes a [coin] out, drops it in, and says this [coin] is for the zechus of ..."
Of course, Rav Miller's suggestion was not intended to replace giving to tzedakah generously on behalf of the departed neshamos, but simply as a practical way for us to keep our parents constantly in our hearts and deeds even long after they have left this world.
Inspiring Others to Give:
Chazal also tell us: One who inspires others to give is even greater than one who gives himself (Baba Basra 9a). So encouraging others to give to tzedakah can generate more merit for your departed's neshamah than just giving yourself; and it's not a difficult thing to do. The steps are fairly straightforward:
Practical and Inspirational Books About Tzedakah:
- Choose which charity you would like to raise funds for. (For guidance, consult your Rabbi.)
- Assemble a list of family, friends and neighbors who might appreciate the spiritual value of your endeavor.
- Write a letter from your heart explaining what you're doing and why. (For a sample letter, click here.)
- Prepare your mailing, drop it in the mailbox and daven (pray) for success!
The Tzedakah Treasury by Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer (ArtScroll)
The Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser by Rabbi Avrohom Shimon Taub (ArtScroll)
Priorities in Tzedakah by Rabbi Moshe Goldberger (Judaica Press)