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Righteous Giving to the Poor: Tzedakah ("Charity") in Classical Rabbinic Judaism


Including a Brief Introduction to Rabbinic Literature


Moral insights and comments about Tzedakah ("Charity") are found throughout the vast body of rabbinic literature. This book attempts to present a survey of the rabbinic sources concerning Tzedakah and to provide the reader with an analysis of the system of Tzedakah as created and understood by the Rabbis.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0261-3
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Mar 24,2014
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 198
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0261-3
$65.00
$39.00

The concept of Tzedakah (“Charity”) as set forth in rabbinic literature is one of the greatest moral insights in the history of the Jewish people. Since the dawn of humanity there has always been poverty and its concomitant suffering. The Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Prophets, recognized that we have a responsibility to ameliorate the plight of the poor.

The Rabbis refined this moral insight into an extensive system of Tzedakah. Their fundamental premise is that every human being is made in the image of God and thus the dignity of every individual must be respected. Each one of us has the obligation to enhance the lives of others so that they may live in dignity. Poverty has the potential of undermining an individual’s sense of dignity and self-worth. The system of Tzedakah as developed by the Rabbis is an instrumentality that sensitizes us to the needs of the poor and our obligation on their behalf.

Moral insights and comments about Tzedakah are found throughout the vast body of rabbinic literature. This book attempts to present a survey of the rabbinic sources concerning Tzedakah. The objective of this book is to present the reader with an analysis of the system of Tzedakah as created and understood by the Rabbis. The system of analysis was to divide Tzedakah into different categories and to comment upon the rabbinic texts utilized. It is hoped the reader will comprehend and appreciate the moral insights that are inherent in the rabbinic concept of Tzedakah.

Front cover: Tzedakah box, c.1920 (brass & other metals), Israeli School / Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN, USA / Gift of Harold and Mickey Smith / The Bridgeman Art Library.

The concept of Tzedakah (“Charity”) as set forth in rabbinic literature is one of the greatest moral insights in the history of the Jewish people. Since the dawn of humanity there has always been poverty and its concomitant suffering. The Hebrew Scriptures, especially the Prophets, recognized that we have a responsibility to ameliorate the plight of the poor.

The Rabbis refined this moral insight into an extensive system of Tzedakah. Their fundamental premise is that every human being is made in the image of God and thus the dignity of every individual must be respected. Each one of us has the obligation to enhance the lives of others so that they may live in dignity. Poverty has the potential of undermining an individual’s sense of dignity and self-worth. The system of Tzedakah as developed by the Rabbis is an instrumentality that sensitizes us to the needs of the poor and our obligation on their behalf.

Moral insights and comments about Tzedakah are found throughout the vast body of rabbinic literature. This book attempts to present a survey of the rabbinic sources concerning Tzedakah. The objective of this book is to present the reader with an analysis of the system of Tzedakah as created and understood by the Rabbis. The system of analysis was to divide Tzedakah into different categories and to comment upon the rabbinic texts utilized. It is hoped the reader will comprehend and appreciate the moral insights that are inherent in the rabbinic concept of Tzedakah.

Front cover: Tzedakah box, c.1920 (brass & other metals), Israeli School / Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN, USA / Gift of Harold and Mickey Smith / The Bridgeman Art Library.

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Contributor Biography

Rivka Ulmer

Rivka Ulmer (Ph.D. in Rabbinics, Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main; MA in Jewish Studies, Linguistics, American Studies; training in Egyptology; Certificate in Israel Studies, Brandeis U.) is Professor of Jewish Studies at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania; her research specialty is Midrash. She has published/edited nineteen books, including: Egyptian Cultural Icons in Midrash (de Gruyter, 2009); A Synoptic Edition of Pesiqta Rabbati Based Upon All Extant Hebrew Manuscripts and the Editio Princeps (1997-2002), Re-presenting Texts: Jewish and Black Biblical Interpretation: Proceedings of the 2010 and 2011 SBL Midrash Sections (ed. W. David Nelson and Rivka Ulmer; Gorgias Press, 2013); and numerous scholarly articles. Ulmer held The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Chair in Jewish Studies at Bucknell University (2002-2007). She serves as the co-chair of the Midrash Section of the Society of Biblical Literature. Moshe Ulmer is a Rabbi (including a Master in Hebrew Letters) and a former attorney.

Moshe Ulmer

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Abbreviations (page 7)
  • Transliteration (page 9)
  • A Brief Introduction to Rabbinic Literature (page 11)
    • The Origins of Rabbinic Judaism (page 11)
    • Foundational Texts of Classical Rabbinic Judaism (page 13)
      • Mishnah (page 14)
      • Talmud (page 23)
      • Midrash (page 33)
    • Inner-Biblical Interpretation (page 34)
    • Introduction to Tzedakah ("Charity") in Judaism (page 49)
  • Chapter One: Theology of Tzedakah (page 55)
  • Chapter Two: The Rabbinic View of Poverty and the Humiliation of Accepting Tzedakah (page 67)
  • Chapter Three: The Rewards of Giving Tzedakah (page 79)
    • Eligibility to Obtain the Reward (page 79)
    • The Power of Tzedakah (page 81)
    • Reciprocity of Benefit Between the Donor and the Donee (page 83)
    • Benefits Obtained During One's Lifetime (page 85)
    • The Miracle Stories (page 87)
    • Benefits in the World to Come (page 93)
  • Chapter Four: The Penalty of Not Giving Tzedakah (page 99)
  • Chapter Five: The Role of Tzedakah in the Community (page 103)
  • Chapter Six: The Urgency of Giving Tzedakah (page 109)
  • Chapter Seven: Giving Tzedakah Discreetly and Indirectly (page 113)
  • Chapter Eight: Rules Affecting the Donor of Tzedakah (page 119)
  • Chapter Nine: Alms Collectors (page 125)
  • Chapter Ten: The Priorities in Giving Tzedakah (page 131)
  • Chapter Eleven: Vows and Tzedakah (page 139)
  • Chapter Twelve: Motivation in Giving Tzedakah (page 147)
  • Chapter Thirteen: Tzedakah in Relation to other Mitzvot (page 151)
  • Chapter Fourteen: Tzedakah in Respect to Shabbat and Fast Days (page 157)
  • Chapter Fifteen: Biblical Figures Performing Tzedakah (page 161)
  • Chapter Sixteen: Restrictions upon the Donee and Receiving Tzedakah Fraudulently (page 167)
  • Chapter Seventeen: Tzedakah and the Gentile Community (page 173)
  • Conclusion (page 177)
  • Rabbinic Authorities (page 179)
  • Glossary (page 183)
  • Bibliography (page 187)
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