Every city in which Israelites dwell must appoint charity Gabbaïm,—well-known and trustworthy men who should go about and collect from each one what he ought to give and what he has been taxed. This money they should divide among the poor once a week before the Sabbath, giving each one enough to suffice him for seven days. This fund is called Kuphah. The community should also appoint other Gabbaïm to collect, day by day from every household, donations of bread and other victuals, or fruit, or money. This should be distributed among the poor daily towards evening, to each one enough food for the day. And this is what is called Tamhuy.2See notes on Article 253, Sec. 1. We have never seen or heard of a Jewish community that has no Kuphah, but in some places it is not customary to maintain a Tamhuy.
On the night of a fast day food should be distributed among the poor. If, at the close of a fast, the people eat and retire without giving charity to the poor, they are regarded as if they had shed blood. This is so only when the distribution is made of bread or fruit; but if they fail to distribute money or wheat,3I. e., they postpone distribution until the morrow. they are not regarded as shedders of blood.
Collections for the Kuphah must never be made by less than two, because no office for communal money-affairs can be created with less than two officers; but after collection one can be trusted with it as treasurer. Therefore, two brothers may be appointed as treasurers. The distribution of charity, however, must be made by no less than three (as in all civil cases) because every poor man must be judged as to the amount he needs. But the Tamhuy is not only distributed by three but also collected by three, because it is not a fixed matter, but each person approached must be judged every day as to the amount he is to give that day.
The Tamhuy is collected every day, and the Kuphah, once a week. The Tamhuy is meant for any poor people who may apply, while the Kuphah is intended for the poor of that particular city. The community may convert a Kuphah into a Tamhuy, or vice versa; or it may use both for any other communal purpose, although such a condition was not specifically made at the time of collection. If there is in the city a distinguished wise man who enjoys the confidence of the community and who has charge of the distribution of charity, he alone may devote the charity funds to any other communal purpose.
RMI.—And the same applies to a duly elected Gabbai. And even when an individual donates a sum of money1Without stating explicitly that it is to be given to the poor. and gives it to the Gabbai [the Gabbai may use it as he sees fit]; but if that individual appoints his own trustees, the members of the community have no right to change its purpose; because the money is not donated to be disposed of at their discretion. Nor have they the right of change when the donor specifies that the money be given to the poor of the city, or to a certain poor man,—not even for school purposes. If a controversy arises between the Gabbai and the community, resulting in an irreparable breach, and the funds are still in the hands of the Gabbai,—then, if he possessed the right originally to dispose of the money as seemed best to him, he may exercise that right now; but if he always had to take counsel with the leaders of the community, he should likewise do so now. If, however, it is impossible to bring them together, or they cannot come to an agreement, the Gabbai should do with the money what he deems proper,—only he should spend it for some worthy purpose.
After dwelling in a place thirty days, one can be compelled to contribute towards the Kuphah; after three months, to the Tamhuy; after six months, he can be compelled to contribute to the Clothing-Fund for the poor; after nine months to the Burial Fund with which to make interment of the poor and perform all funeral rites. This applies to one who comes to dwell in a place temporarily; but if he settles there permanently, he must become a contributor at once.
If one comes to a strange city on business, and that city assesses him with an amount for charity, he must pay that for the poor of that city. But if a number of merchants come in a body and they are assessed, they must deposit the amount; but, when they are ready to return home, they take back the total amount of their contributions and bring it to their home city, to be devoted to the poor of their own city. And if there is a universally recognized scholar there, they should give it to him for distribution.
RMI.—They have to pay immediately in order to avoid suspicion, but it is afterwards returned to them. And this refers to a kind of charity to which they would not have been obliged to contribute had they remained at home; but to the usual charities they do not have to contribute in the strange city, for we assume that they are taxed in their home town.